Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Before Reading:

I’ll cut to the chase and say that at first I have misjudged this book and mistook it for a self-help book. I did not search anything about it, then I would still be that one hesitant person who would not a pick up a book she judged based on the cover. Yet I found myself picking this book up on a whim when I was not feeling like reading another book on my TBR. And I have to say, picking this book up felt like a blessing.


220px-Aristotle_and_Dante_Discover_the_Secrets_of_the_Universe_coverTitle: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

Date Published: 21st of February 2012

Series: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe #1

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Source: eBook, Physical Copy bought from National Bookstore

Buy it on: Amazon / TBD


This Printz Honor Book is a “tender, honest exploration of identity” (Publishers Weekly) that distills lyrical truths about family and friendship.

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.

After Reading:

Hands down, this is such a beautiful story. It’s easy to digest, but easy to misunderstood. It could be misunderstood in  a way that one cannot bear with Aristotle’s angst. But in my own way, I connected with Aristotle. The only time that I have encountered a character that speaks like my introvert self was when I was reading The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Teenagers are angsty, and sometimes we have hard time expressing thoughts because we think adults would not understand. This book nailed it. I am not going to lie: I thought it was about traveling because of the word “discover”. But apparently, you can travel without leaving the comforts of your own home.


This book has everything. And if I need to put a GIF to emphasis this, then here’s a Stefon for you:


The book will hit you with its beautiful prose, with a protagonist so poetic. The deep wonders of the universe can be seen in Aristotle’s own head. I had this urge to read Dante’s mind in the process, because they seem so different. Yet they clicked like two peas in a pod. I do not mind that the whole thing was in Aristotle’s perspective because the way he speaks about everyone is how some people do perceive the world.

Aristotle was difficult to understand at first. He is a bit stubborn and very secretive. If it were not in his narrative,  he would have been a misunderstood character. He is a true poet, and through befriending Dante does he unleash himself into the world. His heart is in a true place: a place of questions and how secrets need to be unleashed. He is just a good guy.

Now what I loved most about this book are the aspects that it mainly tackled. This book is not your usual contemporary because it hits you in the gut. Here are some of the key aspects that the author tackled in the book.

Realism: The setting where the story took place felt real, even if one has not been to El Paso, Texas. You get this sense that maybe Aristotle and Dante could have lived there at some point. The writing was exquisite in every way so it was one of the factors that paved the way to make the writing to be as realistic as it can get.

Friendship: It was refreshing to read about Aristotle’s stance on friendship. His friendship with Dante is special. At first there was this sense of brotherhood that then developed into something else. But you could read through the pages on how a friendship can grow, and that it can even influence other people to be the better person.

Family: What probably distinguishes this story from every other story out was the discovery of Ari’s family. As Ari grows into a young man who distinguishes himself from everyone else, his family becomes more open and accepting on some of his curiosities in life.

Self-discovery: It will strike the readers because Aristotle has this voice that will speak to every teenager who feels ignored. It is normal for us teenagers to feel like we are misunderstood and that no one will understand. It takes courage to admit to oneself about what you want to happen in your life, and that being open is a good vent to yourself and everyone else. This book also tackled the topic of being true to what you feel. I will leave it to you guys on how you would understand the deeper prose behind the LGBT aspect, because it is open to interpretation.




Benjamin Alire Sáenz (born 16 August 1954) is an award-winning American poet, novelist and writer of children’s books.

He was born at Old Picacho, New Mexico, the fourth of seven children, and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla, New Mexico. He graduated from Las Cruces High School in 1972. That fall, he entered St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado where he received a B.A. degree in Humanities and Philosophy in 1977. He studied Theology at the University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium from 1977 to 1981. He was a priest for a few years in El Paso, Texas before leaving the order.

In 1985, he returned to school, and studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Texas at El Paso where he earned an M.A. degree in Creative Writing. He then spent a year at the University of Iowa as a PhD student in American Literature. A year later, he was awarded a Wallace E. Stegner fellowship. While at Stanford University under the guidance of Denise Levertov, he completed his first book of poems, Calendar of Dust, which won an American Book Award in 1992. He entered the Ph.D. program at Stanford and continued his studies for two more years. Before completing his Ph.D., he moved back to the border and began teaching at the University of Texas at El Paso in the bilingual MFA program.

His first novel, Carry Me Like Water was a saga that brought together the Victorian novel and the Latin American tradition of magic realism and received much critical attention.

In The Book of What Remains (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), his fifth book of poems, he writes to the core truth of life’s ever-shifting memories. Set along the Mexican border, the contrast between the desert’s austere beauty and the brutality of border politics mirrors humanity’s capacity for both generosity and cruelty.

He continues to teach in the Creative Writing Department at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Connect with the author on:
Goodreads || Twitter

Okay, help me out. Apparently the next book (which is in Dante’s perspective) is coming out on who knows when. I would love to hear what you think of this book. Please do comment down below.


4 thoughts on “Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

  1. I’ve wanted to read this for so long now! But I keep finding a really ugly edition at my bookstore with the cover always bend (I don’t really know how to explain it, sorry if this makes no sense haha) Great review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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