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Book of the Month: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

By Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Recommended grades 8+ (some mature themes)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a layered, heart-warming, and poetic novel that follows two Mexican-American teenagers and their intertwined journeys into young adulthood. Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza is self-doubting and shy, sheltered by the walls he built around himself. When Ari meets Dante Quintana, the two become inseparable. Dante’s outspoken confidence and unique perspective on life encourage Ari to break down the walls around him and explore the most important parts of his identity. Readers follow the two teens as they develop a deep bond and a clearer understanding of themselves. 

Set in El Paso in the summer of 1987, Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s novel explores many themes of identity that are as relevant to these characters as they are to young people picking up this book. His characters grapple with the racial, ethnic, gender identities, and sexualities of themselves and those around them. A great addition to a Pride Month reading list, this novel openly discusses sexual orientation and gender identity to push towards a future in which acceptance is the norm. Held every June in the United States, Pride Month is a celebration and commemoration of LGBT+ identities, culture, and history. 

Standing on a strong foundation of friendship, Ari and Dante help one another develop self-acceptance and persevere through family tragedies. Through the characters in the novel, readers will witness how love (whether familial, platonic, or romantic) is a necessary ingredient to foster growth in individuals. After reading the first installment, readers can consume more of Aristotle and Dante’s story by watching the 2022 film or reading Sáenz’s sequel titled, Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World

If you are a parent or a student looking for more reading materials this summer, we invite you to check out all of our book recommendations

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