Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe // Benjamin Sàenz

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has been well-received by readers and critics alike since its publication. It has won numerous awards including the Stonewall Book Award for LGBT fiction, and Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award, and the Lambda Literary Award, amongst others and also carved out a spot amongst the online book community for many years now.

This book was heartwarming and instructional. Written from the eyes of an 18-year-old Mexican-American boy named Aristotle, Ari for short, in El Paso, TX, the story takes on a lot of heavy themes at once and makes them accessible. Ari’s relationship with his parents grows so exponentially throughout the book and, I think, stands as a true example for young readers. The family represents the full arc— starting hard conversations with your parents all the way through emotional and challenging places to the beautiful relationship you could have if you are brave enough to talk about real things with your family. The book is idealistic in this way, but not in a way that faults the novel.

Perhaps the more important theme in Aristotle & Dante is the homosexual / heterosexual tension. The author did a great job encompassing the doubt, fear, and denial of a young person as they approach their sexuality. He also showed human’s tendency to arrive at life milestones at different paces, as Dante is ready long before Ari to accept that he is gay and explore his sexuality.

This novel was very well-written and covered themes and feelings that are under-represented in literature. Overall, I highly recommend this novel to anyone wanting to understand the human condition more thoroughly and, in particular, to any young person struggling to come to terms with his or her sexuality for both comfort and guidance.

PUBLICATION DETAILS: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers;  April 1, 2014; 978-1442408937; Fiction -> LGBTQ