2 stars

A Contemporary With a Convenient Ending | Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz - Partly Spoiler Review

August 03, 2017

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Standalone Novel
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: February 21st 2012
Format Read: Paperback
Rating: ★★.5
Synopsis:
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.

This book follows Ari, who feels he is very different from everyone around him and finds his life incredibly boring as a 15 year old. He thinks his age is the biggest tragedy ever, and he has no friends or social life. That is, until he meets Dante, who is the son of a Mexican-American English Professor and the opposite of Ari in every way possible. Obviously, the two become best buds, and this book follows their relationship. 


Ari was annoying at the beginning of this book. He kept claiming the boredom in his life was because he was a "15 year old boy" which I frankly don't understand or agree with. You make your life interesting or boring, no matter what age or gender you are. However, I did relate a lot to his thoughts as the book progressed. He was appalled at the way some other people his age viewed things and the things they focused on, and found certain "rules" ridiculous. 

Dante was alright, but I felt we didn't get to know him enough since this book was from Ari's POV. We touched on the fact that he can get aggressive sometimes and that he doesn't feel Mexican enough, due to him not being able to speak proper Spanish among other things. These things weren't explored deep enough in my opinion, and were just brushed off. I didn't really get much else from Dante in this book, rather than he was a horny teen boy who didn't like shoes.

What I particularly enjoyed about this book were the parents. They were actually present and not some evil super villain trying to take over the world. Ari's mom was so sweet, and how she interacted with her son felt so natural. His dad and him had some communication issues though, for reasons. However, I felt both of them did some weird things I would NEVER expect parents to do, like let their underage kid drink beer (tsk tsk.) Both of Dante's parents were great, and he had a very tight relationship with both of them, which was very refreshing to see. Also, there's a dog called Legs. Let's all agree Legs was the MVP in this book. 

What bothered me about this book is that it was 101 % characters and 0% plot. Even the characters where only looked into at a surface level. Don't get me wrong, a lot of things definitely happened in this book, but it didn't really seem to paint a bigger picture. We didn't get to see how what happened affected the characters in very much detail. It just fell flat.

I personally enjoyed the fact that there was way more dialogue than writing, although I couldn't differentiate between the two voice sometimes. I would have loved to have a dual POV rather than just Ari's, because both of them had problems and I feel like none of them were resolved.

Another thing I hated was the ending. Rather than focusing on the issues that were already brought up in the first 70% of the book, the author decided to introduce the issue of sexuality, which, of course, trumped everything else and got the spotlight because it's the most important thing in the world, right? The ending just felt unrealistic and oh-so-convenient. Nothing that happened previously alluded to that ending, and I feel like the author just wrote it that way so people wouldn't get mad. 

Overall, it's an alright read. It's very hyped everywhere, so you might enjoy it more than I did if you gave it a shot, but it just wasn't for me.

*WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION*

Let's talk spoilers.

How come Ari magically has feelings for Dante all of a sudden? The book is written FROM HIS POV and none of his previous thoughts ever mentioned him feeling that way. The first time Dante kissed him, there was literally no hesitation before he said he felt nothing. I mean, if we are reading his thoughts, and he thought there was something there, we should have definitely gotten some clue. How many more of Ari's mysterious thoughts have we missed??

I reaaaallllyyyy wanted the author to explore Dante not feeling Mexican enough. I can relate to that kind of feeling, and I personally feel it would have been a much more interesting thing to look into. I mean, we didn't even really look into Ari's feelings at all! It was just "Surprise Dante, I'm gay too! Hahahah I was just lying earlier, even though I gave no indication whatsoever, psych!"

*sigh* So much wasted potential.

I don't understand the hype, and why everyone was saying they were crying. I'm pretty sure everyone else felt the opposite way about the ending to me, thought. They would have loved Ari and Dante together. This was just one of my least favorite books of the year so far. Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

-Rekha

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