Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and You Can Too


I’ve been really behind in staying up to date on what’s trending in the YA genre.

It used to be one of my favorite genres, but perhaps now that I’ve “officially” grown out of the target demographic of this particular genre of literature, I’ve lost touch with what’s trending in it.

Thankfully, one of my classes this semester is a YA Literature class–which means a syllabus full of juicy recommendations disguised as required readings.

And Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was at the top of that list. 

I intended to get a jumpstart on reading it before the class would be reviewing it, but it wound up being so good that I read the entire thing in just two days. 

The story is told in the first person perspective of the main character named Aristotle, a lonely teenager growing up in El Paso. During a trip to the local pool one summer day, he meets fellow loner, Dante, who offers to teach him how to swim. The two quickly become best friends who complement each other in the best ways: while Aristotle is a melancholy, overthinker, who likes to keep his emotions to himself, Dante is optimistic and expressive–often acting without thinking things through. 

The beauty of the story is in how the discovery of the main character is entirely related to the unfolding of the other characters in the story. Ari’s emotional inner world is intimately connected to the world and people around him.

His father, for instance, is a very solemnly quiet man who has trouble expressing his deep emotions leftover from fighting in the Vietnam war. As Ari begins to recognize a similar habit in himself, we see his feelings for his father begin to change in intensity as he starts to question his identity and noticing all the things he is not.

the problem with my life was that it was someone else's idea quote

Despite touching on some incredibly deep, emotional topics, though, the story doesn’t feel overly heavy. The chapters are super short–some of them only a paragraph or two long. There’s also a lot more dialogue than description which makes it incredibly easy to read while allowing us to experience the complex events and emotions in the story in a way that feels refreshingly interactive.

We see Ari’s struggles with himself through his conversations with others as well as his various journal entries and racing thoughts and in this way, we begin to notice how his actions and interactions in the world don’t necessarily match up with how he thinks of himself.

The story ends with his dad finally opening up to him about his traumatic experiences in the war and his mother finally opening up to him about his brother who is in prison–a topic that has long been regarded as taboo in his family. And through his parents finally opening up, Ari is able to open up himself and is finally able to tell Dante how he really feels about him.

Overall, it’s a delicious love story that demands to be consumed over and over and over again–if only for the reminder that the secrets of the universe are always patiently waiting for us to realize we’ve been worthy of knowing them all along.

Don't forget to connect with Story Cafe Media and let me know what you think.

Have you read this novel before? If so, what did you think about it? What quotes stood out to you the most?

If not, do you think you will? Why or why not?

I look forward to hearing from you!

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