Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Benjamin Alire Sáenz
 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Simon & Schuster 
273 pages

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be. 

I still remember when I walked around a bookstore inside an old mall that sells imported books in Bandung--well, you can already guess what it is--I came across this book. At first, I thought it's a fantasy book which sets in Arabian alternative universe that once appeared on my Goodreads timeline. Apparently, I mixed this book with The Assassin's Curse which has similar title's font and color tone. I didn't even bother to touch this book to read the blurb or anything because I had my suspicion that this is gonna be self-help that I'm gonna loathe. So, every time I went to that bookstore, I didn't bat an eye and just moved on. 

Then Raafi kinda "forced" me to read it. I was like, "Well, yeah okay." But then, I am glad that he kept forcing me to read it by providing a so-much-easy way to read it. And then, how can I refuse? If he didn't force me, though, I wouldn't ever read something amazing like this. 

So, just like what most of readers in Goodreads said based on which shelf they put this book on, this book is about a gay relationship. But, interestingly it occurred in the end of 1980's where being gay was not as easy as today. But, another interesting thing is Ari & Dante's relationship is sweeter and more genuine than most of straight relationship that I have ever read on fiction books. 

One thing that catches my attention is short sentences that Mr. Saenz uses to narrate Aristotle. Not only it suits Ari's introverted, sulky, witty, and quiet personality, but these short sentences are able to deliver the message and plot quite effectively. Young adult books these days tend to overdescribe everything with purple prose, just because the author wants to insert beautiful words or pretentious phrases, but this book--this book is not anything like that. The phrases that Saenz uses are all on-point, like arrows that hit the bull-eye. All sentences are meaningful and wonderful and I like them all. I can give write quotable quotes this book has, but thankfully Goodreads has done that meticulous job for me here. Now, I will happily argue with you if you don't find those sentences beautiful. 

Saenz also built this book up perfectly. Most of this book are focused on Ari & Dante's friendship and Ari's struggle in figuring out himself, his parents, and the secrets of the universe. I somehow can relate myself to both of them. I can picture myself and some of my personalities and struggles in both Ari & Dante. And that's what makes Ari & Dante are such perfect and relatable characters. Reading Ari's sentences is like listening to my deepest and darkest part of my soul and it sometimes scares me. It's like Mr. Saenz can read my mind and I'm afraid that this book is actually able to tell everything about myself--even the one that I can't discover yet. I'm afraid that people read different sentences, and this book is actually a magical book that can show you your dark side that you don't want to see. 

Some scenes are touching and beautifully written. When Ari jumped to save Dante's life--I hope it's not a spoiler--my mind directly jumps to a beautiful verse on a Bible that says, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." It's just beautiful and wonderful, and this somehow is able to restore some of my faith. Most characters are real and full of pain, and I like them all. Saenz gives them different layers, and that's exactly what human beings are like. They are full of different layers, and you need to peel each layer off until you can see the most inside layer. That's when you finally understand them. Saenz lets us unravel each character's layers. He lets us see that Ari is not just an introverted, socially awkward, or misanthropic teenager or Dante is not just an extroverted, smart, and witty teenager. Saenz also shows different layers of their parents as well. And I can say that Ari & Dante are just really lucky to have such great and amazing parents. 

This book is like a cornucopia of love and fountain of affection. It feels like that Mr. Saenz pours every part of his soul on this book, and that's what makes this book genuine and honest and amazing. That's how you make your book eternal. 
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