Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (Simon & Schuester)

Wow that’s a long title. I didn’t really notice how long it was until I was typing on bookstagram to everyone asking what my current read was. Aristotle & Dante is a book that has been super popular the lost couple of years but I never got a chance to read it until now.

Benjamin Alire Saenz grew up in New Mexico in the 50’s and 60’s. He recieved his B.A. degree in Humanities and Philosophy from St. Thomas seminary in 1977, and went on to study theology in Belgium and was a priest for a few years in El Paso, Texas. He went back to school at the University of Texas and got an MA in creative writing and then a PhD in American Literature in Iowa. His first book of poems, Calendar of Dust, won an American Book Award in 1992.

The best way for me to describe Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is that it is a coming-of-age story of two Mexican-American boys in 1980s El Paso, where they slowly discover their sexuality. But, of course, the book is more than just the exploration of sexuality. It also contains themes of identity as Mexican Americans, as teenage boys, as trying to fit in loving but dysfunctional families. It brought all these aspects together as our main character, Aristotle, really tried to find his own sense of self.

I absolutley loved this book, to the point where I just want to lie down, think about the characters, and cry. Do you ever do that, or is it just me? I feel like I need the sequel right away, but of course I don’t have it.

I thought the language was beautiful but in a simple way. It didn’t seem far-fetched to be the thoughts of a melancholy teenage boy. In fact, I would argue a lot of the book is written as if it were Aristotle’s stream-of-consciousness and I really enjoyed the beauty of that. There were so many quotes in the book I loved that kind of described the mysteries of the universe.

“Words were different when they lived inside of you.”

“The summer sun was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain.”

“There are worse things than boys who like to kiss boys.”

I also loved how the book dealt with familial trauma and how people might react to them differently, and conversely, how our parents’ reaction to trauma can influence our own. I found it so interesting, for example, how Aristotle was quiet like his father who became quiet after the trauma of the Vietnam war.

To be honest, I can’t even think of anything I didn’t like about the book. It was altogether beautiful.

However, there are trigger warnings! Trigger warnings can be found on this site. I would say the main TWs are family trauma, homophobic hate crime, alcohol/pot, and car accident.

Overall this book was a five star read for me!

And, apparently it’s gonna be a film. See the info here!

By myadventure2017

Writer, Reader, Bookstagrammer, Booktoker, Blogger

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