I’ve said many times in various posts that Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is one of my favourite books of all time. I reread it recently and that statement still stands true, but I realised I’ve never done a review of it.
Seeing as I’ve now read it more times than I can count I felt a bit strange just doing a regular review of it, so I’m going to start a series where I make individuel posts for my FAVOURITE books. Starting with this one!
(Includes minor spoilers!)
What Is It About?
Aristotle and Dante are teenage boys who meet one Summer and bond over swimming lessons. Both of them are different to other boys their age and are kind of loners so they take a lot of comfort in each others company. Their friendship and feelings for each other grows, but all Summers must come to an end.
When Did I First Read This Book?
I first read Aristotle and Dante in 2017. I was a teenager like the characters and I think I loved it so much because I related to their sense of not fitting in.
Since then I’ve read it maybe four or five times. At least every Summer as it is one of those books that just reminds me of the Summer time. It’s about friendship, first love, discovering yourself and coming into your own.
Why Is It A Favourite?
Oh my gosh, where do I start?
The characters. They and their relationships are complex and multi-layered. I felt every emotion they felt. Their anger, their fear, their loneliness, their joy and their sadness. Whilst they’re nothing like me, (they’re teenage boys, Mexican American and living in the 1980’s) I’ve rarely understood characters like I do these and I think that shows the skill of the author. I really sympathised with them which made me that much more invested in their stories.
And the great characterisation doesn’t stop with Ari and Dante. One of my pet peeves is YA books that just don’t feature parents and this book has some of the best parental figures I’ve ever read about. They’re not the best because they’re perfect parents but because they felt like real people. They’re flawed and have their own issues, but they have so much love for Ari and I felt that love radiating off the page.
These characters learn and grow throughout the book. They don’t always make the right decisions and some of them could definitely do with seeing a therapist. But you do see them stumble through these mistakes and learn from them which just makes them feel that much more real.
Ari has a lot of anger and not a lot of self-worth. Dante is his opposite, he’s affectionate and a lot more open. They seem like an unlikely pair but you can just feel how much they care about each other. Seeing their bond grow into more was so beautiful.
The writing as well is so poetic but also quite relatable. It really feels like the character talking and there are these moments where he puts a feeling into words in a way I’d never thought about before.
This time around reading this book something occured to me that hadn’t before. This doesn’t feel like a teenager talking. It also doesn’t feel present. It almost feels like an adult Ari looking back at this time in his life and working through what he was thinking and feeling in these significant moments.
And, I hate to say this, it also feels like Dante maybe isn’t in his life anymore? This book is getting a sequel and so far we know nothing but a maybe title ‘There Will Be Other Summers’. Now I already feellike this sequel isn’t going to be a happily ever afterromance because where they live is extremely homophobic. But what if we also see their relationship end?
I don’t know if I could handle that. In my head they went to college together, became poets and now live in a lakehouse with no light pollution for miles.
Have you read this book? I’d love to discuss it with you if you have!