Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Saenz, cover
When a book has three medals on the cover, you feel like you are supposed to like it. Probably a lot. But for me, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was a disappointment.

Ari is our narrator. He doesn't talk much, worries about not knowing who he is, has no friends, and prefers it that way. One day at the swimming pool, a boy asks Ari if he wants to learn how to swim. So Dante teaches Ari how to swim and a friendship is born.

Let's talk about what I liked about  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. The blurb talks about "breathtaking prose." I can see that. The writing is very good. The characterizations are excellent. I really felt like I got to know Ari and Dante very well. I loved the parents in this one. Especially Ari's conversations with his mother. Great stuff.

But, as you can probably tell, I had some problems. Nothing. Ever. Happens. Well, maybe things just happen very slowly. The "accident" happens at about the middle of the book, but it doesn't really move the story along very much. The last 50 pages were very interesting and almost wrapped things up too quickly. Maybe not too quickly, but it was startling after the slow development of the rest of  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. 

As the story meanders along, you become fairly certain how things are going to end. And I suspect Saenz wants you to know. But still, I wanted so badly for it not to end like that. It was just way too easy and happy. I was hoping for something different that would surprise me. But no. Totally predictable.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an LGBTQ book dealing with homosexuality. If the romance in this book had been heterosexual, it would have been boring and cliche. It was. I felt the same way about Rainbow Boys when it came out in 2001. At that time, it was somewhat groundbreaking, at least to me. But the only reason that book was interesting was because of the homosexuality. If the story had been written with couples of the opposite sex, it would have been a boring, cliche romance. I don't understand why predictable romance stories get so much attention just because they are about gay couples.

I'm obviously way in the minority here, and I'm probably being very controversial. Just remember, this is just my opinion and don't judge me to harshly.

I'm sure Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has a teen audience, and I won't hesitate to recommend it to them.

Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2012
Copy obtained from the library
359 pages

Rating: 3/5

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  1. Great review. I own this book, but I haven’t read it yet. I hope I like it more than you did.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. This isn't my usual cup of tea, but it does sound intriguing - wonderful review overall.
    <3 Benish | Feminist Reflections

  3. I imagine that the gay aspect of a romance can make a mediocre love story "better" simply by the fact that it exists. Gay romances are still pretty rare in the overall grand scheme of things. I totally agree though that that isn't a good excuse for cliche. I think I'll skip this one and go for a more original LGBT read. Great review!

    Cayt @ Vicarious Caytastrophe


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