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

This Printz Honor Book is a “tender, honest exploration of identity” (Publishers Weekly) that distills 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.

-Synopsis taken from Goodreads

Hey! It’s Meaghan here, back with another review! This time I’m here with the beloved Aristotle and Dante. Let me preface this by saying that I did not enjoy this book at all, and that if you loved this book, the review below will not match up to your opinions at all. This book was not my thing at all, and I enjoyed almost no part of it unfortunately. I had high hopes for it, and unfortunately my expectations were a tad too high ): Please be aware of the spoilers after the read more!

“We all fight our own private wars.”

Stars (Out of 10): 3.5/10

Overall Thoughts: I really wanted to like this book, I really did. The amazing reviews, all the awards, and the synopsis drew me in, and therefore my expectations may have been too high. Maybe this just wasn’t the right time for me to read this book. But in all honesty, I had to struggle to finish this book. So many times I wanted to just quit, but I pushed through, thinking “it has to get better, right? There has to be a reason why this book was rated 4.33 stars.” But I never found that reason. I never even found a true plot. I didn’t enjoy the characters, I didn’t enjoy the plot, I didn’t enjoy the writing style, I just didn’t enjoy the book at all. I feel almost like I read a different book than everyone else. While the ending did save this book from being 1 star, it didn’t explain why the rest of the book didn’t draw my attention. And therefore, my rating can only be 3.5 out of 10 stars, and even that I feel is optimistic.

SPOILERS BEGIN HERE

The Good: Honestly, only the ending was good. I felt like I finally was able to learn who the characters were, and what the plot actually was. Besides this, I hate to say that I didn’t like anything of this book.

The Bad: Can I just say everything? I didn’t like the writing style, as it seemed that it tried to be confusing and “philosophical”, but didn’t have substance to make that true. The quotes were pretty out of context, but when put in the book, their power was almost wasted when they were used to describe useless and meaningless things. I also disliked the book for reasons I will discuss in the specific categories.

The Characters: Only the parents were somewhat okay in my book. The relationship between Dante and Aristotle made no sense to me. Aristotle hated and loved Dante, and he just seemed so confused. I get characters being confused about their feelings, but this was seriously way beyond that. And when the love was revealed, it didn’t make any sense. I knew that they would be together, but the way it happened was honestly kind of ridiculous. Ari’s parents suddenly decided to tell Ari he loved Dante, and this made Ari also decide he loved Dante. Every moment where this love could’ve been built beforehand was shut down by Ari (and thus the author), making it seem like Ari wanted nothing to do with Dante instead. And I’m sorry, but there’s no way anyone can get that confused with their feelings, even if they couldn’t handle them.

The Plot: There wasn’t one. Only in the ending did I finally learn what the “plot” was, and that was as it was being solved. It made me feel as if I was reading a book without a purpose.

The Stereotypical Tropes: The writing was an entire stereotype to me, as it was wistful and trying to be philosophical, and tried to make the words more meaningful than it was. Besides that, there was a slight love triangle towards the end I guess, and an extremely pessimistic character who hated his life and believed he wasn’t good at anything.

The Favorite Character: I liked Sam, Dante’s father. I also liked the dog, Legs.

Buy it, Borrow it, Or Bin it: Bin it, although I feel so awful for saying this about a book loved by so many.

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