I’ve already reviewed this book on my old blog, but it is one of my very favorites, so a reread was inevitable. Even more so when I found out that the audiobook was read by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The second time around did not disappoint; in fact, I think my love for this story grew.
Saenz is phenomenal at conveying incredibly complex thoughts and emotions through very simplistic language. Aristotle (Ari) is a teenager, full of contradictions and self-doubt and chafing under the roles imposed upon him by others. He does his namesake proud (not his grandfather, but the ancient Greek guy) by philosophizing about absolutely everything. It’s beautiful, and so true, even if you’re not currently a teenager. Although his confusions are age-specific, like all great truths, they carry weight for anyone listening.
I love Aristotle’s relationship with his parents. Their conversations are honest and loving and difficult. His family is not perfect (most clearly seen in their erasure of his older brother after he winds up in prison), but they are beautiful. Beautiful. That’s my word for everything related to this book.
As for Aristotle and Dante? *swoon* Not in, like, a dramatic sexy swoony-way. Just in a melting swoon because of…yeah, the beauty. This reread enabled me to see all the ways they say “I love you” to each other before either of them has a clue what they feel. The number of times Aristotle says, “My dog is so affectionate, like Dante. I really love my dog” or “Dante is clingy like my mom, but I still love her.” Their relationship is the exact opposite of insta-love, and I prefer it that way. More stories about people realizing they’ve unknowingly been in love for a year, please!
This book is everything: deep, meaningful, easy to read, and BEAUTIFUL.
GREAT NEWS: Benjamin Alire Saenz is writing a sequel!!
Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair-skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.
But when Ari and Dante meet, they bond. They share books, thoughts, dreams, laughter. They teach each other new vocabularies and begin to redefine each other’s worlds. And they discover that the universe is a large and difficult place.
This is the story about two boys, Ari and Dante, who must learn to believe in each other and the power of their friendship if they ever are to become men.
In breathtaking prose, American Book Award winner Benjamin Alire Saenz captures those moments that make a boy a man as he explores loyalty and trust, friendship and love.
Release Date: February 2012