Book Review : Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
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 Sneak Peek Into the Story :
I looked around his messy room. “I can see that you really like to take care of things.”
He didn’t get mad. He laughed.
He handed me a book. “Here,” he said. “You can read this while I clean my room.”
“Maybe I should just, you know, leave you—” I stopped. My eyes searched the messy room. “It’s a little scary in here.”
He smiled. “Don’t,” he said. “Don’t leave. I hate cleaning my room.”
“Maybe if you didn’t have so many things.”
“It’s just stuff,” he said.
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have stuff.
“If you stay, it won’t be so bad.”
Somehow, I felt out of place—but—“Okay,” I said. “Should I help?”
“No. It’s my job.” He said that with a kind of resignation. “As my mom would say, ‘It’s your responsibility, Dante.’ Responsibility is my mother’s favorite word. She doesn’t think my father pushes me hard enough. Of course he doesn’t. I mean, what does she expect? Dad’s not a pusher. She married the guy. Doesn’t she know what kind of guy he is?”
“Do you always analyze your parents?”
“They analyze us, don’t they?”
“That’s their job, Dante.”
“Tell me you don’t analyze your mom and dad.”
“Guess I do. Doesn’t do me any good. I haven’t figured them out yet.”
“Well, me, I figured my dad out—not my mom. My mom is the biggest mystery in the world. I mean, she’s predictable when it comes to parenting. But really, she’s inscrutable.”
“Inscrutable.” I knew when I went home, I would have to look up the word.
Dante looked at me like it was my turn to say something.
“I figured my mom out, mostly,” I said. “My dad. He’s inscrutable too.” I felt like such a fraud, using that word. Maybe that was the thing about me. I wasn’t a real boy. I was a fraud.
He handed me a book of poetry. “Read this,” he said. I’d never read a book of poems before and wasn’t even sure I knew how to read a book of poems. I looked at him blankly.”
“Poetry,” he said. “It won’t kill you.”
“What if it does? Boy Dies of Boredom While Reading Poetry.”
He tried not to laugh, but he wasn’t good at controlling all the laughter that lived inside of him. He shook his head and started gathering all the clothes on the floor.
He pointed at his chair. “Just throw that stuff on the floor and have a seat.”
I picked up a pile of art books and a sketch pad and set it on the floor. “What’s this?”
“A sketch pad.”
“Can I see?”
He shook his head. “I don’t like to show it to anyone.”
That was interesting—that he had secrets.
He pointed to the poetry book. “Really, it won’t kill you.”
All afternoon, Dante cleaned. And I read that book of poems by a poet named William Carlos Williams. I’d never heard of him, but I’d never heard of anybody. And I actually understood some of it. Not all of it—but some. And I didn’t hate it. That surprised me. It was interesting, not stupid or silly or sappy or overly intellectual—not any of those things that I thought poetry was. Some poems were easier than others. Some were inscrutable. I was thinking that maybe I did know the meaning of that word.
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.
I was impressed by the fact that Dante could be so systematic in the way he organized everything in his room. When we’d walked in, the place had been all chaos. But when he finished, everything was in its place.
Dante’s world had order.
He’d organized all his books on a shelf and on his desk. “I keep the books I’m going to read next on my desk,” he said. A desk. A real desk. When I had to write something, I used the kitchen table.
All afternoon, I sat in that large comfortable chair in Dante’s room and he lay down on his newly made bed. And he read poems.
I didn’t worry about understanding them. I didn’t care about what they meant. I didn’t care because what mattered is that Dante’s voice felt real. And I felt real. Until Dante, being with other people was the hardest thing in the world for me. But Dante made talking and living and feeling seem like all those things were perfectly natural. Not in my world, they weren’t.
I went home and looked up the word “inscrutable.” It meant something that could not easily be understood. I wrote down all the synonyms in my journal. “Obscure.” “Unfathomable.” “Enigmatic.” “Mysterious.”
That afternoon, I learned two new words. “Inscrutable.” And “friend.”
Words were different when they lived inside of you.
It has been quite some time since I last read an LGBT romance novels, and a young adult one too at that. I went through a phase last year where all I would literally read was M/M romance novels. I got so into it, so much so that I think I read about 100 books in that genre alone –– it’s a little crazy I know.
I was so obsessed with the genre that it single handedly pulled my out of my reading slump and got me back into reading again, which is amazing. However, once you’ve read so much of the same genre, things started to get predictable. And that was when it started to go downhill for me. Romance started to get boring, and eventually, I found myself straying from it altogether and started exploring other genres.
However, since I’ve been reading some heavy-duty books lately, your girl decided that she should let the brain rest a little and picked up Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
To be quite honest, I don’t really dig the guy.
I mean, I get it. You’re 15, you’re going through puberty, you hate everything and everyone because you don’t know what’s going on with you and what you want to do in life. Trust me, I get it. I’ve been there, and I think most of us have too.
I was fifteen. I was bored. I was miserable. As far as I was concerned, the sun could have melted the blue right off the sky. Then the sky could be as miserable as I was.
It’s just that, unless you’re also a teenager going through this with raging pubescent hormones streaming through your veins like Aristotle did, it’s kind of hard to sympathize with him. It’s not that I didn’t want to, it’s that I can’t. I don’t find Aristotle all that likeable whatsoever. All this boy did, for a good 90% of the book, was mope around being this edgy, angry teen.
Again, I get that I might not be part of the demographic for which this book was written for, but man, I don’t know. Aristotle is just not that likable, and I honestly do not get the hype around/for him.
For a lot of the places where Aristotle lacked, Dante filled it up with his light and positivity. He and Aristotle are like two sides of a coin. One is the dark, broody, nobody-gets-me-guy and the other is this happy-go-lucky guy who doesn’t let anything bring him down.
Together, they were bearable. But not by much. The chemistry between the two wasn’t really there –– at least not from what I see. For me, it looks like these two are friends mostly by necessity if anything else. I find it odd too when we’re about 75% done with the book that there’s a sudden mention of Dante and his feelings for Aristotle. I mean, I suppose that those little-teeny-tiny hints that Dante throw at Aristotle was a sign? But I don’t know. These two just seem like an odd pairing.
I thought of Dante and wondered about him. And it seemed to me that Dante’s face was a map of the world. A world without any darkness. Wow, a world without darkness. How beautiful was that?
ANGST, ADULTING, SEXUALITY AND ALL IN BETWEEN
One thing that I commend Aristotle and Dante Discovers the Secrets of the Universe for however, is the fact that it encourage readers –– especially if they’re teens –– to not be afraid to question things. Be it about life in general, or about their sexuality.
I looked at him. “I have a theory about why moms are so strict.”
Dante almost smiled. “It’s because they love us, Ari.”
“That’s part of it. The other part of it is that they want us to stay boys forever.”
Because the setting that was created in this book, with both the boys having parents who are supportive and loving despite their rules. It shows that despite what one might think of their parents, truly, most parents just want what they think are best for their children. Sure, there might be a lot of things that we don’t see eye to eye with our parents, but at the end of the day, all they wanted was for their kids to be happy, healthy and safe. And that is what this book portrayed.
Aristotle and Dante Discovers the Secrets of the Universe showed us a normal family, with jobs and kids and problems. Just like every other parents out there. Despite this book being marked as a romance novel, I truly think that it’s just as much about familial love and relationship as it is about romantic relationship.
IS THIS THE NEW CMBYN?
Aristotle and Dante Discovers the Secrets of the Universe seems to be compared a lot to another famous LGBT novel called Call Me By Your Name, which has also been made into a movie. I’d say by comparison, there is barely any similarities at all between the two. Other than the fact that both these books are about gay romance.
Aristotle and Dante Discovers the Secrets of the Universe is more pure and simple. In a sense that, it’s safe for kids and teenager to read. Call Me By Your Name in the other hand, is what I’d categorize as a soft core erotica. I would not want my 13 year old kid to read it, if that says anything.
Both of these books brings something different to the table, despite them being themed around finding out about one’s self and one’s sexuality.
The Verdict :
Should you read it?
I mean, I wouldn’t recommend this book with the passion of a thousand blazing flames, but it’s not a bad book. It was very mediocre in terms of plot and emotions. There’s not a lot of romance going on, if that’s what you’re looking for in a book. I’d say that Aristotle and Dante Discovers the Secrets of the Universe is a novel about being an teen rather than a romance novel. But hey, what do I know?
There’s a lot of hype regarding this book however, so it might be worth giving it a try just to see if you enjoy it or not. Not to mention, this book is quite short, with each of the chapters only a few pages long. So it does give off a feeling that you’re flying off the pages.