Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
By Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Grade Levels: 7-12
This young adult fiction book, published in 2012, has been so commercially successful and critically acclaimed that author Benjamin Sáenz announced that he is working on a sequel this year. It was placed in the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults top ten in 2013 and won the Stonewall Book Award for LGBT Fiction in the same year. So there’s no better time than now to give it a read and get ready for the sequel!
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.
A combination coming-of-age and coming-out story, this book was written at a somewhat pivotal point in the author’s life, only 3 years after he had come out, himself. This allows Sáenz to write two incredibly believable protagonists. On the one hand, Aristotle (Ari) is introverted, shy, and unsure of his place in the world. He wonders and he worries. On the other, Dante is self-assured, gregarious, but still struggling to find a world that is as comfortable with him as he is. It’s not hard to see Sáenz reflecting on the different facets of his own journey (and those of many others) to understand his queer identity. A novel that doesn’t shy away from dealing with issues of racial and ethnic identity, sexuality, and family relationships, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe may be the best young adult novel you read this year.