When one of my learners read this book and I asked for a recommendation, his response was hesitant. “I’ve been wanting to read that one forever, how was it?” I asked him. He’s the kind of reader that reads without stopping, taking in books more quickly than even I did at his age. “I mean, it was different. It just wasn’t what I expected,” he responded. He’s also not one to show a lot of emotion or get too excited about anything. What did he mean? I had to find out, and this novel quickly moved to the top of my to read pile. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is exactly the way my learner described it- unexpected.
With a cover that depicts the night sky and character names like Dante and Aristotle, I imagined a story that was transporting, a fast paced fantasy with a young duo searching for themselves and trying to change the world. I wasn’t wrong, but this story wasn’t the fantasy I thought it was going to be. Set in Texas and starring a hispanic cast, this novel is about a young duo searching for themselves, but it isn’t a fantasy, it’s much too close to real life for that.
Dante is the youngest son in his family, all of whom are trying to cope with the imprisonment of Dante’s older brother. Aristotle is the kind of weird only son in a family of educated parents. When they meet at the swimming pool, they teach each other about what it means to grow up and what life looks like when you don’t let your friends take the easy way out, when you demand that they be truthful, with themselves and with you. This novel was beautifully written. I felt like I was in the mind of the main character when I was reading his words. The only thing that I didn’t really like about this novel was that the ending seemed a little too perfect, but maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to see the end coming.