I want to read and have copies of every YA novel by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. His writing captures that painful, ever-nostalgic, and whimsical energy that you carry as you come of age. It’s awash with the feeling of heartbreak and endless possibility on a warm summer night.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a tender love story without the expected or stereotypical romance. In fact, I was left in the dark for most of the novel as to why it won a Stonewall Book Award.
Instead of your typical teen-meet-teen, sparks fly, flirtation is exchanged, and oh-my-a-kiss plotline, Sáenz chooses to follow a budding friendship between two teen boys. The novel relies heavily on solid character development, rather than fast-paced action. However, once you fall in love with Aristotle and/or Dante (and it’s hard not to), you’re in for good.
I thought it might be a great thing to be the air. I could be something and nothing all at the same time. I could be necessary and also invisible. Everyone would need me and no one would be able to see me.
Sometimes, you do things and you do them not because you’re thinking but because you are feeling. Because you’re feeling too much. And you can’t always control the things you do when you’re feeling too much.
This is one of my favorite YA novels I’ve read so far, and one that I usually recommend to students who express interest in queer identity and/or issues. In this novel, Sáenz unfolds a queer romance between people of color (!!) that is believable and doesn’t feel tokenized or set apart solely due its queerness.
Buy Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe here