Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was first published in winter of 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books and is one of Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s many books. It has received a lot of awards, has outstanding ratings and has a really beautiful cover, which shows some of the secrets Dante and Aristotle discovers in this book.
This book is about two boys who have reached the time when their bodies, interests and lives are changing – from child to adult, they both meet at the swimming pool and almost instantly become best friends. Dante is bright, educated and sensitive, while Aristotle is a bit of a rebel. The story is basically about their relationship and struggle to understand themselves and discover the secrets of their past, present and future an takes place when they are 15 to 17 years old.
I didn’t know anything about the book, except that it is supposed to be wonderful and I really love the cover of it, so I didn’t expect anything less than a beautiful story that will take the first place (or close to that) in my booklist. I was very, very wrong and I know I am one of the few people who do not like this book. I actually even considered to make a video about all the things I didn’t like in this book, because then I could include spoilers.
So the good thing about the book is that it passes quickly, it is a quick read and you rarely get any bumps or stops. And mostly that happens because there’s no complicated language or descriptions. He just watches the sun set, there’s no description or how it happens, feels or looks. I think it is because the author wants to concentrate the attention to the philosophy of the book and that is fine by me. I was actually reading it today on tube and my boyfriend reproved the author for the short chapters and said that it is like the author doesn’t have anything to say and just ends a chapter mid-page, so the book would look longer. Those are not my words, but I think he has a point.
There were few places in the book that I didn’t understand why would there be a sentence like that, because it just didn’t make sense, almost like some words in the sentence were missing. But that happened just few times.
And there were so many dialogs and no mentions of who is saying what. I sometimes had to reread and count lines to see, if one or other character said it. It really frustrated me.
The character development was a bit weird. I have to start with the fact that I did not like any of the characters, they are all sweet, loving and wonderful – some keep pain inside, some – don’t, but the main idea – all the parents and parental figures are the same and I didn’t like it, because I don’t think those parents are real. I mean, I know some wonderful people who also happen to be parents, but none of them are so lusciously kind! Well, perhaps people in El Paso are different. The only real difference in people characters are between Aristotle and Dante, which are basically two extremes, but I could see them existing on this planet.
Characters did change and usually the catalyst was a pretty damn good reason for development. Perhaps sometimes the characters overreacted and did too many development steps at the same time, but that happened more on the second part of the book, so it made me feel like the ending of the book was rushed, but in the first part it always pretty much made sense.
The story line… I honestly don’t think that there was one. The only two things that I was interested in during this book were Bernardo’s history and Dante telling his secret to his parents. They both got unraveled by the end and I was disappointed in both.
I got this idea about Bernardo that he is loving and caring and it was all just a tantrum that got him where he is, but when I found out what really happened, it was just a really big sadness that I was lulled in this fake reality. I also didn’t get how it is possible for people who love someone so much (I mean Bernardo’s parents) just to lock the door and leave him (Bernardo) outside. You might argue that he wasn’t out and they were writing letters, but that is just a silly argument, because, if he wouldn’t be locked out, Ari would know about him.
The other mystery was just a cliché and I don’t really want to talk about it. But I really disliked that Aristotle’s parents sat him down and talked about Dante. It’s just so wrong and fake, and I get that it is like pushing him to open his heart, because he has this hard personality, like opening his eyes to see what everyone else sees, but, sorry, I don’t buy that it could ever happen.
So… my biggest problem with this book was the accident. It happens and everyone deals with it differently and I accept that. I have seen some reviews where readers got mad at Ari and how he dealt with it, they thought that he is a hypocrite, but I kind of accepted all the emotional reactions, because I get how people can react differently and was too busy with being angry at the description of the accident and everything that happened after to bother.
When I was a kid, I was in a similar accident, with similar injuries and almost every single word that described anything that was connected to hospitals, medicine, pain etc. was like a slap in my face. (Books slap me often, I know.) I hated it from the bottom of my heart because it was so fake and unreal and honestly I felt offended that the experience that I went trough was changed in order to make this story flow faster. I do though accept that perhaps people in America get treated differently than people in Europe and heal ten times as fast, but if so, the problem I had with this book being so American, gets even bigger.
The book is written very poetically and not at all as people talk, you might notice books like Wonder or The Fault in Our Stars and others that have this tendency and somehow it goes hand in hand with philosophy which is the main point of this book, but these thoughts never touched me, never made me think and actually made me feel like the author wanted to be meaningful, but didn’t have it in him. And at the end there are just shallow sentences that seem as fake as the incident I just refered to. It’s like he wants to tell this story and he wants to give advises, but he has no idea what the hell is happening in those people and how they actually feel, so he doesn’t search and research, but draws approximate picture and hopes it will be good enough. I felt like the goal of this book was to find the identity and that the things we found, was not it. That’s not how people are defined.
I honestly I think that I am perhaps too old for this book. I gave it two stars out of five on my goodreads page without any actual reason, I just felt like this and I do not think that this book is for adults and I wouldn’t put it in new adult gender either, it is for teens.
I’m sorry to all the fans, but no, not gonna happen. If it wouldn’t be for that accident thing, I might still give it a chance and try to at least like it, but it was for the accident thing and it did make me really angry.
So, please, tell me what you liked or didn’t like about the book! I know I am the only crazy person, who gives two stars to a book that has 4.3 as an average right now on goodreads, so I bet you all love it.
If you wish me to read a book you love (or hate) drop me a mail, comment here or suggest it to me on goodreads and I will add it to my list! Please remember that, if you wish me to review your book, you have to check out my review policy!