• Adeline Palmquist

Spectacular coming of age story: Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Updated: Jan 15

Everything and more that one could expect in a young-adult fiction novel is packed into a 359 page book. Written by Benjamin Alire Saenz and published in 2012, Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe, is a heart-aching story of two young Latino boys growing into teenage-hood.

The main character, Aristotle, or, Ari, is a quiet, disgruntled boy plagued by many questions - but no answers - about his long-lost brother in prison. Dante is a self-assured, curious son of professors and an only child. After offering to teach him how to swim, Dante develops an interest in Ari and his oddities. Despite their differences, the boys become friends. While navigating the plot-line of the boy's friendship, the author explores their relationships with others and with their parents, and how it ties into their own relationship.

Dante and Ari have a peculiar bond - communicating through questions and answers, letters that go unanswered, brief phone calls, arguments and apologies - but a deep connection nonetheless. The two endure traumas and heart-ache, and although they live to be unscathed, the impressions are visible in their personalities forever.

Saenz wrote a beautifully constructed, chaotically simple story that follows the transformation from youth to adolescence, trauma, and a coming out story all while capturing the power of companionship. Coming-of-age novels are becoming dominant in the young-adult genre, however not many of these stories can replicate the complex characters, raw emotion and truth that Saenz created in this book. For readers of all ages, this book will leave you in tears - the good kind - and questioning the depths of every encounter with friendship you have.

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