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

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe started out very slow but turned out to be great in the end.


In this book “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.” (Goodreads)


The first hundred pages had me wondering what the hype surrounding this book was all about. The book started slow and had me bored to the point that I wondered if I should stop reading it. In the beginning I had a lot of trouble with the writing style. Saenz writes a lot of poetry and you could tell that by how he wrote this book. The chapters are very short. Instead of one flowing story, Aristotle’s and Dante’s journey is told through many anecdotes. They fit together and draw a wonderful story but through the anecdotes there a several time jumps. It is a personal preference of mine to read a story as a story and not through letters, mails, or several little snapshots of the story which leave a lot of room for interpretation.


Another problem of mine was the writing style. Again it was obvious that Saenz writes poetry because the whole writing was very lyrical. That just didn’t go well with the dialogues. I couldn’t imagine that any 15-year-old would talk like Aristotle and Dante did. That any 15-year-old would have dialogues like they did. I have met many teenagers in my life (I have been a teenager myself) and even the intellectual ones never talked like that. I think it was the result of an adult poet writing the dialogues. Of course his dialogues are more poetical and full of metaphors. They are beautiful. They just don’t fit.


After the first hundred pages something happened that changed the dynamic of Aristotle and Dante. That was the moment the book got my interest. I got sucked into the story. The dialogues were still as unrealistic (and beautiful) as before but now it didn’t bother me so much anymore because the story was so mesmerizing. I felt for Aristotle and Dante so much. This story tucked at my heart with full force. And can I mention that I absolutely loved the summer feeling this book conveys? 


After finishing this book I have to say, I see where the hype is coming from. I can’t give this book a five star rating even though three-fourth of the book totally deserves it. But the first hundred pages and the dialogues resulted in a 4 star rating. A highly recommended book.