Friday, 24 June 2016

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

I first heard about this book on Instagram. Someone I followed had posted a picture of this book and given a positive feedback. Obviously the first thing that caught my attention was the gorgeous book cover. It was so unique and very very intriguing. But I am not going to spent more time gushing over this book cover  (I think I talked more than enough about it in yesterday's cover love feature)

Other than the cover the one other thing which had caught my interest was the fact was it was a book which talked openly about sexuality and self discovery. Like Inia, lgbtq issues are something which I feel strongly about and for long I had wanted to read a book which portrayed it realistically. After having read Inia's review of Captive Prince, my interest grew and I felt that a book  telling the sweet story of two young boys was the perfect way to officially step into the world of LGBTQ literature. (Believe me, I have read more than enough fan fictions...but I wanted to read a published book of the trope).

I guess I have given more than enough information about my reasons for reading it. It's time I talked a bit about the book itself. 

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Title: Aristostle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Genre: LGBTQ fiction, Romance, Coming of Age, Bildungsroman

When I checked out goodreads (i.e the new age Bible of book addicts like us), it described the genre of the book as young-adult and bildungsroman.
Now I don't know if I am the only one new to that word. But, what the hell is bildungsroman? As usual when in trouble, approach google!

  1. a novel dealing with one person's formative years or spiritual education.

And yes, that's exactly what the book does. Benjamin Alire Sáenz tells the novel from the point of view of  fifteen year old Aristotle. The novel leads us through his growth, his frustrations and his self-discovery, openly discussing the topic homosexuality. The book was heart touching due to the innocence and simplicity which clearly shines through every page. 

Ari is a loner and comes from a family filled with secrets. His father a war veteran who barely talks anymore, his much older brother is in prison and everyone in his family pretty much pretends he does not exist. And Ari himself is just becoming a man and is confused with himself; his body and his thoughts. It is at this point that Ari meets the open and easy going Dante at a swimming pool. Dante is the opposite of Ari at first glance. He is philosophical, artistic and is not afraid to face the fact that he is into boys. In fact, the ease with which he accepts his homosexuality seems to startle Ari. But as the book progresses Ari learns to love words and realizes that he is more like Dante than he thought.

The one thing I thoroughly enjoyed about this book, was the fact that the author never went into a information dump or a monologue. Things are never explicitly said but everything is revealed through the actions. Though the book is from Ari's point of view, the readers are left to form their opinions about Ari though his actions rather than words. As a writer, I feel that being able to express something in such a way is a unique talent.

The book has been divided into various sections and each section marks a change in Ari, or so I had felt. In addition to pursuing the idea that love is free, equal and is for all, the book also talks about topics like friendship and family. The strong family support that both Dante and Ari receives as well as the special friendship that they share are explored quite well.

Aristotle and Dante takes the readers into their world and let's them be a part of their adventures. The novel is more like a movie than a book in the aspect that it keeps the readers guessing. It is a book which brought a smile to my face as I finished the last sentence and one that I will remember with fondness. I would say it's definitely worth a read. And if I had to rate will be a solid 5/5, nothing less.

The Awards :

Stonewell Book Award, 2013
Honor Book, Michael L.Printz Award, 2013
Pura Belpré Author Award, 2013


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