Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Series: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, #1

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: February 21st 2012


Five Stars

This Printz Honor Book is a “tender, honest exploration of identity” (Publishers Weekly) that distils lyrical truths about family and friendship.

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.

– Blurb courtesy of

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“I wondered what that was like, to hold someone’s hand. I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.”

I only discovered Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe recently. Despite the book having been out for years already I hadn’t seen it around until a few months ago when suddenly it seemed to be everywhere; probably because of the news of the second book being released. Now I have finished Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe I am among those people who cannot wait for the second book.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a coming of age novel set in the 1980’s. Ari is fifteen years old and it’s the start of summer, he has no plans until one day at the swimming pool he meets Dante. Despite being a loner and happy on his own Ari becomes fast friends with Dante; they spend all their time together over the summer, swimming, making up their own games, talking about anything and everything. Their friendship is forged over that one summer but even as Dante’s family moves away and Ari goes back to school the two stay close. As Ari struggles to deal with the shadow his brother casts over his family and Dante deals with his sexuality, as the two seem to travel different paths, they stay the best of friends.

“Ari?” My father’s voice was soft. “Ari, Ari, Ari. You’re fighting this war in the worst possible way.”
“I don’t know how to fight it, Dad.”
“You should ask for help,” he said.
“I don’t know how to do that, either.”

There’s not much else I can say about the plot without risking spoilers for certain aspects. There isn’t really a singular event that the story focuses on, no clear beginning middle or end. Instead the plot is the journey Ari and Dante take, both together and alone.

…The Characters

“I renamed myself Ari.
If I switched the letter, my name was Air.
I thought it might be a great thing to be the air.”

Aristotle is a loner and he’s happy that way. However he doesn’t feel free to be himself, with his brother in prison and his family refusing to even speak his name Ari feels the shadow that his brother casts over his life. He has to be careful of how he speaks and acts because of how what his brother did could reflect on himself. Ari is a curious character, he soaks in everything Dante tells him and more than that he is desperate to know more about his brother. There are no photos or anyone he can even ask to satisfy his curiosity.

We don’t get to see much of Ari’s family outside of his parents but the connection he has with both his mum and his dad felt real and well developed. His relationship with his dad felt distinct and tense at times. After fighting in the Vietnam war Ari’s father is haunted by what he did and saw there, but there are a lot of things that Ari goes through in this book that his father can help him with. It’s refreshing in a young adult novel to see characters who have good relationships with their parents; Ari talks to his mum and dad, when he screws up they punish him but they also support him through every decision he makes.

“He tried not to laugh, but he wasn’t good at controlling all the laughter that lived inside of him.”

Dante, like Ari, is also a loner but he seems much more open. He is a sensitive boy, incredibly smart and incredibly curious, but like Ari he feels lost sometimes. For Dante it’s because he doesn’t feel like he really has any claim to his Mexican heritage. For the most part Dante is very comfortable about who he is; he is openly gay, admits his feelings, and there doesn’t seem to be anything he won’t talk about. However there are still things that he fears. He doesn’t want to lose his best friend because of his sexuality but he refuses to hide who he is.

I really loved Dante. He had such a unique way of looking at the world and it shone through in every interaction Ari had with him. He helps Ari to see the world in a different way and he makes Ari braver in his own way as well, brave enough to question what he wants.

“I was harder than Dante. I think I’d tried to hide that hardness from him because I’d wanted him to like me. But now he knew. That I was hard. And maybe that was okay. Maybe he could like the fact that I was hard just as I liked the fact that he wasn’t hard.”

The relationship between Dante and Ari is not an easy one, but it felt real. The two have their ups and downs; they fight and resent each other at times but when it comes down to it they always go back to one another. Dante makes Ari see the world in a different way, and Ari becomes protective of Dante, standing by him even when times are tough. The two are very different but in the ways that matter they are both the same.

…The Setting

“Summer was here again. Summer, summer, summer. I loved and hated summers. Summers had a logic all their own and they always brought something out in me. Summer was supposed to be about freedom and youth and no school and possibilities and adventure and exploration. Summer was a book of hope. That’s why I loved and hated summers. Because they made me want to believe.”

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is set in Texas in the 1980’s but honestly the setting doesn’t make much of a difference in this book. As two Mexicans living in America both Ari and Dante struggle with their heritage and their identity. Dante is a firm believer that he isn’t a real Mexican, whereas Ari seems to embrace his heritage more. However other than each of the character’s heritage the Mexican aspect isn’t really explored much. Don’t get me wrong I loved this book, and I have no complaints about the setting, it just wasn’t a big aspect in this book because it didn’t need to be. Everything that happened, the character development of Ari and Dante and the journey they took, was the centre of the story. Everything else came in second because it wasn’t needed to advance the story.

There are so many amazing reviews for Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and I was really excited to finally start reading this book. Luckily it more than lived up to the hype. Ari and Dante is a great story with an amazing array of characters you can’t help but love who undertake such an incredibly journey together. Honestly it’s impossible not to love this book.

What did you think of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

31 thoughts on “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

    1. Yes this book was amazing, honestly there aren’t enough words to fully express how amazing I thought it was! There was so much time spent developing all the characters and the relationship between Ari and Dante was so real and almost heartbreaking at times! I need the next book because I need to read more about Ari and Dante!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know right!? There’s no blurb, cover or release date yet though so I feel like it’s going to be a really long wait for the next book. Yes, there was so much development behind their relationship as well, it wasn’t something that happened on a whim or anything, it felt so strong.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Same here actually, I would have loved to see his feelings for Ari from his side, and what happened in the year his family moved away. But honestly I’m glad it’s going to be a continuation, I’d love to see where their story goes after the first book.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Ah what a lovely review! I love how you structure them, it’s very clear and easy to follow. 🙂 Also I had no idea a second book was coming out! Now I’m really excited. I loved the first one.
    (You wrote 198 instead of 1980 when you talked about the setting. Thought you’d like to know. x)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, and I’m glad you like my reviews so much 😀
      Yes, there isn’t much information on the second book but it’s definitely in progress, I think the author is writing it at the moment and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
      (Also thanks for letting me know! I’ll definitely need to change that, this novel was not set in the year 198!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmmmmm I wonder what the story will be? I mean there’s a lot to work with after the way the first book ended. I hope he doesn’t ruin what the boys have. I always find sequels a little scary.
        (No problem haha, although that would be an interesting setting as well. x)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. God it could be anything, I wonder if it’ll pick up right where the first book left off or be a few years later? I know what you mean, I’m terrified that something could happen to tear Ari and Dante apart although I don’t think that’ll happen. They had such a strong relationship in the first book I really want that to continue in the second.
        (God I can’t imagine a book set in 198, do we even know much about that year in general?!)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it’s a brilliant book. It honestly has it all; beautiful writing, amazing characters, an attention-grabbing story. I’m sure you’ll love it! ❤️
      And thanks, I’m glad you liked my review and glad I could convince you to add it to the top of your TBR list 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you, it’s really impossible not to love this book! I absolutely adored the story, the characters, the writing – basically everything about it. 😀 And I’m super exited for the sequel, I just want to read more about Ari and Dante.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know right!? I wasn’t sure about this book before I started it but so many people seemed to love it and it had such high praise I had to start it, and yes I loved it. It’s so beautifully written and Ari and Dante are amazing characters! God yes, I can’t wait for the sequel now!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for such a detailed review! This book has been on my TBR for a really long time but I haven’t had the chance to actually pick it up, and honestly by now my interest has dwindled a bit. I hadn’t known that the story is set in the 80s, that seems interesting. 5 stars is great – so glad you enjoyed this book. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s all right 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed my review. This book hasn’t been on my to-read list long at all, maybe a month, but I know what you mean because I’ve had books that have been on my to-read list for years which I doubt I’ll ever get around to now. This book is really good though, definitely worth the five stars 🙂


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