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Unraveling Life’s Mysteries with the Help of Plato’s Offspring: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

book review

Prepare to be whisked away to a sun-soaked summer of friendship, love, and identity as Aristotle and Dante take you on a roller coaster of emotions and introspection. Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a beautifully written coming-of-age story that stirs the soul, tickles the funny bone, and leaves you with a sense of yearning for the innocence and curiosity of youth.

Summary

Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza is an introspective, brooding teenager who is trying to understand his place in both his family and the world. Dante Quintana, on the other hand, is a self-assured, free-spirited philosopher and an overall sunshine child. Two seemingly incompatible teens on the surface, yet their lives intertwine one fateful summer day when Dante teaches Ari to swim.

In the sweltering heat of 1980s El Paso, Texas, Aristotle and Dante quickly become inseparable friends as they navigate the complexities of family, identity, friendship, and the essence of manhood. Steeped in Mexican-American culture, the novel leaps from the pages with a vibrant sense of authenticity as the protagonists grapple with issues from generational trauma to accepting and celebrating their sexuality.

Notable Quotes:

  1. “I bet you could find the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.”
  2. “I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get—and never would get.”
  3. “Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere.”

Review

Benjamin Alire Sáenz has spun a narrative that is so raw, honest, and introspective that it seeps into your very core. The vivid slice-of-life writing style invites readers to ponder life alongside Ari and Dante, offering a wistful peek into the confusion and uncertainty of adolescence. The novel leaves you mourning the loss of youth while simultaneously feeling content about growing up and accepting life’s challenges. Between Sáenz’s poetic prose and the endearing rapport between Aristotle and Dante, you can’t help but fall in love with this book.

The novel doesn’t shy away from confronting and exploring heavy topics, but Sáenz’s charming sense of humor and undeniable wit keep the story engaging and relatable, making it the perfect read for anyone who has ever wrestled with life’s big questions — which, let’s be honest, is all of us.

Rating

5 out of 5

Author Bio

Benjamin Alire Sáenz is an award-winning American poet, novelist, and writer of children’s books. Born and raised in New Mexico, his work often showcases Mexican-American culture, capturing its essence with artistry and authenticity. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has won numerous accolades, including the Michael L. Printz Award and the Lambda Literary Award.

FAQ or Study/Book Club Questions

  1. How do Aristotle’s and Dante’s differing personalities contribute to their growth and the development of their friendship?
  2. How does Benjamin Alire Sáenz use Mexican-American culture to deepen the novel’s exploration of identity and acceptance?
  3. How are the topics of friendship, love, and sexuality portrayed throughout the novel, and how do they resonate with reader experiences?

Where to buy

Purchase Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz on Amazon.

A Journey from Page to Screen: The On-Screen Adaptation

Enthusiasts of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe can rejoice as this beloved tale leaps from the pages onto the screen. The movie adaptation has been a source of excitement for fans since its announcement. The film made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, garnering positive attention and anticipation for an even wider release, expected to happen in 2023.

Set in the heat of 1987 El Paso, Texas, this captivating adaptation brings to life the award-winning story of two lonely Mexican American boys as they traverse the challenges of friendship, self-discovery, and love. Boasting a star-studded cast including Kevin Alejandro, Veronica Falcón, and Eva Longoria, the film’s production has wrapped up, and it is perfectly primed for a successful wider release.

Adding to the expectation is the news that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the voice behind the audiobook, is not only a co-producer of the film but also a creative driving force shaping the adaptation. With a compelling team of visionaries working on the movie, viewers can eagerly await an authentic and moving representation of Aristotle and Dante’s heartfelt story. While specific details about the broader release remain under wraps, the movie’s successful debut at the Toronto International Film Festival signals a promising future of resonance and acclaim for this on-screen adaptation.

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