Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz

“The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.” — Aristotle, 15

Aristotle and Dante are the most unlikely pair to form a friendship. Aristotle, or Ari, has a hard time articulating his feeling and is withdrawn and angry. Dante is self-assured, artistic, and open. Ari and Dante, both 15, meet on a typical summer afternoon at the local swimming pool, when Dante offers to teach Ari how to swim. During their lessons, the two learn that they have much in common and form special bond.

As Dante and Aristotle grow older and are separated by schools — and distance, when Dante moves away at one point — their friendship perseveres. Both boys are on the cusp of becoming men and are facing their own particular demons. While both are Mexican-American, they have very different realities. Ari has a brother in jail and a Vietnam veteran for a father, and he is a loner at heart. Dante’s father is an English professor, and his parents are openly affectionate and loving. However, Dante struggles with his own sexual identity and worries about the repercussions of revealing the truth to those closest to him.

Aristotle and Dante is a beautifully written coming-of-age tale that will resonate with any reader, regardless of age, gender, religion, or ethnicity. Ari and Dante discover and share a friendship that transcends time and distance and changes their lives forever. This is an extraordinary novel that will restore your faith in humanity. Pick it up and be prepared to laugh, cry, and share with a friend.

Review by Maddie, CLP-Squirrel Hill

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