Monday, February 18, 2013

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

The highest praise I can offer a book is that it surprised me - that it took me some place I hadn't expected and shocked me along the way. That said, "Aristotle & Dante" is an EXCELLENT book that I highly recommend! Several times I gasped out loud when the turn of events took me by surprise. And I swear I won't give it away for you ...

At the heart, this is a story about two boys becoming young men. Neither has a lot of friends, and when they meet at the pool one summer day, they bond quickly. The boys have a lot in common: awkward unusual names, Mexican-American heritage, super-protective mothers, plus they share a kind of thoughtfulness unusual in 15-year-old boys. But they're also very different: Ari's withdrawn, while Dante's more outgoing; Dante talks while Ari's often silent, and they attend rival schools.

Their friendship brings both out of their shells. Together they work thought the typical-teen thoughts and feelings they may not have shared with anyone else: what am I supposed to be? where is my place in the world? how do I fit in? and how do I get girls to notice me? But the friendship's not easy, either, and often the boys have a hard time accepting the other's differences.

Have I mentioned that I loved this book? The characters are realistic, and I loved the contrast between the two families - one very touchy-feely, the other quiet and reserved. And while the book is set in the late-1980's, it's also very current. Funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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