Sometimes there are books you don’t like and sometimes there are books you instantly fall in love with. In my case, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a case of the latter.
The story is told from the perspective of Aristotle, who prefers it if you call him Ari. He is a Mexican teenager with no friends until he meets the elusive Dante. Dante is very smart, charming and a good talker. Everything Ari is not. They form a friendship, which gets put to the test through some occasions, Dante moving away for a while for example. Throughout the story they discover who they are and what their place in the world is and eventually even uncover some of the secrets of the universe.
It is a book that has no clear plotline. Yes, things happen, but the events are not what drives the story. This is a very character-driven story which I think is a nice change from the books I’ve read lately. The language used is very simple but very effective. I think it adds to the realism that this is written from the perspective of a teenager. When I read the book Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close for example, I was annoyed at the fact that an eight-year old would use so many difficult words. As a writer you don’t have to constantly show off your large vocabulary. On the contrary, I believe that if you can make a story strong in its simplicity, you end up with a much better story.
Find your own identity and place
I think that in a way, all of us can remember the struggles that teenagehood brings and especially the struggle to find your own identity and place in the universe. It explores the struggle between being who you want to be and fitting into the image you think your parents want you to fit in. Aristotle and Dante explores sexuality in a non-stereotypical way, which is very refreshing. Especially considering the fact that the media still tends to portray gay people as overly feminine and hysterical.
It will take a lot not to fall in love with these characters and the beautiful prose. And maybe, just maybe, it will help you discover the secrets of your universe yourself.
I very much recommend this book. It had me thinking about the story for days and when that happens, you know you’ve found a good one.