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Benjamin Alire Sáenz's ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE: A Must-Read Book

by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)

Book Cover of The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

Oh my goodness, this must be a season of both re-reads and reading series books for me, and I'm loving both reading experiences.


I re-read this one, Benjamin Alire Sáenz's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm), for our January Unabridged Buddy Read, and I fell in love with this brilliant, powerful, moving book all over again. In fact, I loved it even more the second time. We had a fascinating buddy read chat, which enriched the experience even more.


Jen wisely says that it's best to go into this one knowing absolutely nothing, and I second that opinion, so I'm not going to say much at all about the plot. However, I do want to share with you a bit about what I love so much about this beautiful story.


(And, as I write this, I am finishing the sequel, Aristotle & Dante Dive into the Waters of the World (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm), which I am loving at least as much as the first book. Maybe more.)


Okay, so a little bit about the book (and why you should bump it up to the top of your TBR stack immediately)... but no spoilers! I promise.


This story centers on Aristotle (Ari) Mendoza, a Mexican American teenager who is very accustomed to being a loner. His siblings are much older than he is, so he often feels like an only child, and he keeps to himself at school.


"The problem with my life was that it was someone else's idea."

Part of what I find so striking about this novel is the way that Sáenz articulates so clearly exactly what it feels like to be a teenager. To be a bit of both an adult and a child, with those parts battling it out in a body that is neither a child nor an adult. We watch Ari discover pieces of himself as he goes through his journey.


I also love the way we see adults in this novel - parents and teachers and other people significant to Ari's life. We see them as Ari sees them, and that view changes as he changes.


What I found most striking in my re-read is how much this is a story about our capacity as humans to change and to grow. In the novel, we see that change is hard but that it is possible - not just for kids but also for adults - and that we do not have to continue cycling through the same patterns but can find our way through and beyond those patterns, and the results of those changes can help us live so much more fully.


"Scars. A sign that you've been hurt. A sign that you have been healed. Had I been hurt? Had I been healed? Maybe we just lived between hurting and healing."

The writing is beautiful, and Ari's journey is richly told. Oh, and also, there is a dog. And the dog is wonderful.


So yes, I hope I've told you enough about what I love to entice you. This time, I listened to the audio, which is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda and could not be more lovely. I highly recommend this one.



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