Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe


by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Amazing amazing book.  Aristotle and Dante are initially drawn to each other because of their names, however, they are the opposite of each other. Aristotle (Ari) is quiet, reserved, keeps everything inside himself- but he has come by that honestly as his parents do the same. They don’t talk about Ari’s older brother who is in prison, and they don’t talk about his father’s experiences in Viet Nam, despite the fact that both of these events have had an impact on their lives.

Dante on the other hand is an only child whose parents are quite demonstrative and talk about everything. Each time they greet each other it is with a kiss on the cheek, a touch, some physical connection. Because of this openness, Dante of course has no filter most of the time and shares what he is feeling when he feels it.

Despite these differences, their friendship blossoms and they definitely balance each other out. Each respects the other’s ways. Each of the boys is in their final years of high school and are really living typical teen age lives, attending the occasional party, experimenting with alcohol and an occasional joint, but they are both ‘good boys’ not getting into trouble and are genuinely loved and supported by their parents.

Dante is generally happy and open, Aristotle is generally angry and quiet, causing some interesting discussions between the boys, particularly slightly complicated by the fact that Dante is in love with Ari, yet Ari denies having the same feelings for Dante.

There are a few pivotal incidents that bring some of these feelings to the forefront, a car accident, a beating, a cross country move and a family death all work as catalysts to aid Ari, in particular, to acknowledge his buried feelings and to root out the source of his anger, and the beginning of family ghosts being put to rest.