Tag Archives: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (4/5)

6 Oct

This is one of those books I felt every WWW Wednesday person had read so I decided to pick it up when I had a break while waiting for World Without End to come back to me. (Maybe I’ll actually get it soon? Maybe?) It had been a long time since I read YA and it was long overdue. I don’t think I can write this entire review without any spoilers so be warned! I’ll try to make note of the biggest ones.

Cover Image via Goodreads

Cover Image via Goodreads

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

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

This book was exactly what I wanted it to be. It was deep but still relatable and the characters felt real. I know there’s been a bit trend toward LGBT YA lit lately and I’m glad this was my first major foray into the genre. I have hope for the rest of the books! Both were well developed and I have one criticism that I’ll save for later that took this book from a Five to a Four for me but overall, I really liked it. The setting in Texas was extra appealing to me. In addition to a coming of age story, the boys were also battling the dual identities they felt as Mexican Americans and first-generation immigrants which added a great layer to the story.

Both boys felt very real to me. I thought their teenage problems and concerns were on par with what I felt at their ages. I thought their character progression made sense and wasn’t forced, especially with the length of time the book covered. The parents were very real to me, too. I liked that Jaime and Sam could be friends even though they were so different.

Dante was my favorite character. If the book was narrated by Dante, Ari would probably be my favorite. I find first person narration to feel a bit whiny so I’m inclined not to like the narrator. Dante was dynamic and unashamed and I liked that about him. I loved that he wasn’t afraid of what anyone would think except his parents. I could relate to that. He was very confident and that made him easy to like, too.

I related to Ari because I remember feeling lost when I was in high school. Granted, I wasn’t battling quite the level of self discovery he was, but there were things about myself I was discovering. Unlike Ari, I fought my parents and I was glad that he and his mother had a good relationship and his relationship with his father improved. He felt lost with women and uncomfortable with his body and undecided on how he felt about breaking the rules. I appreciated that in him.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz Image via Latinopia.com

Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Image via Latinopia.com

I like how Alire Sáenz handled the year the boys spent apart. They both grew so much in that time apart and it was great for their character development. Dante discovered himself and Ari found things that made him happy and that made him able to connect with his father. I thought the time moved quickly enough without being slow and the character change didn’t seem rushed which was great.

OK, this will be my major spoiler paragraph so skip if you don’t want the end completely ruined. Are you gone? How about now? Good. I thought Ari’s coming out felt really forced. Granted, I’ve never come out, but as a writer, I try to drop more hints about a character’s feelings before a big reveal like that. There were small hints about Ari’s sexuality but never enough that I felt his parents would have guessed he was gay before he did. I think that’s what bothered me most, that his parents more or less told him he was gay. I felt Dante should have if it needed to happen that way.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Yes, the Hamilton guy. I don’t know too much about Miranda or Hamilton, but he did a great job of narrating the audiobook. The voices he used for Ari and Dante were different enough to follow a conversation but not so different that either was annoying. The Spanish was, of course, not forced and it worked really well.

Above all, I think this book was about love and self-acceptance. Ari had to learn to love his parents and accept that he wasn’t going to be his brother. Dante realized that he was gay and that he was already in love and I thought that was beautiful. Ari’s parents had to learn to love Ari without concerning themselves with their elder son all the time. Ari was always compared to Bernardo and once they could stop doing that, their relationship improved dramatically.

Writer’s Takeaway: The best part of this book for me was how relatable it was. It was amazing to read a book that made me think of my childhood growing up as a white Midwestern straight girl when the characters were so different from me. There’s a universality in the coming-of-age experience and Alire Sáenz captured that wonderfully. Now I’m scared for my future books and if I’ll be as relatable.

A great book with some unforgetable characters. Four out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

 

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe- Benjamin Alire Sáenz | Kelly’s Book Space
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz | Songs Wrote My Story
[Book Review #52] Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz | Book Freak Revelations

WWW Wednesday, 5-October-2016

5 Oct

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Before I start, know my mid-term is this evening after work so I probably won’t get to you all until tomorrow! So sorry.

bookofliesCurrently reading: I think I read one page of In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. Yeah, it’s been a slow week for that. We’ll see what the next few weeks hold but I’m not too hopeful this will be a quick one.
Still on hold with World Without End by Ken Follett.
I still haven’t read much of Slade House by David Mitchell. It’s a little creepy so far which is always good for a fall book. It’s not reminding me of Cloud Atlas at all which is a good sign!
I started a new audiobook in the car which is The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer. This is a book where I own a signed copy and I’m very strict about my signed books leaving the house, so I thought it might be better to listen to it rather than limit myself traveling with it so much. I have a long car ride coming this weekend so I hope to get through a lot of it then.
But I still needed an audiobook on my phone so I started Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck. I feel weird about this one because I own the physical book but my shelf is so big that I feel like I’m never going to tackle it without resorting to audio on a few of these. It still feels weird.

aristotleRecently finished:I really enjoyed Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. It was just the YA break I needed from the serious literature and non-fiction I’ve been reading. It was fun and I really enjoyed it! Review coming soon.

My review of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot went up last Thursday. I enjoyed the book a lot and was already able to discuss it with my book club. That post went up yesterday. I gave it Four out of Five stars.

stillaliceReading Next: The plan is still for Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I might squeeze another audiobook or two in before I start it. Or maybe I’ll listen to it on audio! I’ll figure something out.


I have a class after work Wednesdays through November so please be patient with me due to delayed responses. I’m checking as often as I can.

Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 28-September-2016

28 Sep

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


aristotleCurrently reading: I made some minor progress on In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson during my lunch breaks. I just passed 60% so maybe another two months? Haha. It’s really good, don’t get me wrong!
On hold with World Without End by Ken Follett.
I needed a new audiobook and I decided to give Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz a try. I’ve seen a lot of wonderful things about this book on others’ posts and I need some YA in my life. Great so far, I’m really loving it.
I finally started Slade House by David Mitchell. No opinion on if I like it yet. I’m hoping to speed through this one and make a little time for a book of my choice off my shelves. We’ll see if life will let that happen.

Henrietta LacksRecently finished: I finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot just in time for book club! I finished it Sunday night and we meet Mondays. Phew! I really enjoyed the story and I’ll have a review of it up tomorrow!
SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner was also a win for me. I loved the first one and this was equally enjoyable. My post went up yesterday so check that out and let me know if you had to suddenly go out and buy it.

stillaliceReading Next: I’m going to get a jump-start on my next book club book. We’re reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I’m a little iffy on this book because it seems like it might be really sad and I don’t want sad! Fingers crossed the ending doesn’t make me cry.


I have a class after work Wednesdays through November so please be patient with me due to delayed responses. I’m checking as often as I can.

Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!