Aristotle and Dante spent the whole summer becoming best friends, only to have their world turned upside down during a rainy day. A car skidded down the slick road where Dante was crouched over an injured bird. Ari saved Dante, taking the brunt of the hit. While both boys are healing, Ari struggles with his dark feelings and with coping with his war veteran father being closed off, while Dante struggles with growing up and trying to be like other boys. Both boys struggle with handling their thoughts and emotions as they grow up and discover who they are. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an amazing bildungsroman that tells a brilliant story of the mental struggles that go on when someone is trying to find themselves and where they belong in the world.
The novel tells a story about finding yourself and ignoring what other people might say or think. Ari learns to be less introverted and learns the secrets to his world and about his family that bring him closer to them and less distant to the world. He learns to come out of his head and see the beauty and happiness in the real world. Love and internal war are also prominent within the book and Ari, Dante, and their families must face them throughout the story.
There is a multicultural aspect to the book in that main characters are both Mexican Americans and they both question be ‘real’ Mexicans. Dante talks about how they aren’t real Mexicans because they barely speak spanish and don’t actually live in Mexico while Ari talks about how they are still distantly Mexican with some of the culture still prevalent. The book shows family morals that are seen more from the Mexican culture as well as talking about some of the food and a little bit of music that they listen to.
My favorite part was the ending. There is a big twist that the main character, Aristotle, has been psychologically hiding from himself since the accident. I really liked the poetic way Benjamin Sàenz writes the dialogue between the characters and the beauty that Aristotle sees when most see only sadness and darkness. The characters are beautifully complex and are very realistic in the way they react and see one another. I greatly recommend this book to everyone, especially to anyone who is maybe struggling to find themselves or who is very introverted and likes books that are sad in a happy way.