Thursday, December 3, 2015

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

5 Stars
"The summer sun was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain."
Welcome to a big hot mess and streaming word vomit. Apparently everyone but me already knew about this book and read it months or years ago. I read it because it popped up on the “recommended to you” page I get when I log on to my library’s website and I liked the title. I’m real deep like that. I got a little sidetracked with dealing with buttholes real life, but when I finally got a chance to sit down and read this last night I didn’t put it down until the last page. When I got to work this morning, people noticed something was different about me. Normally I resemble something kinda like this . . .

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Today I’m a little different. I blamed it on my new perfume . . .

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but really it’s because of this story. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a book with a bunch of award stickers on its cover. Generally that means I’ll hate it – but I still always give those books a try because I assume the award people know what they’re talking about. (Spoiler alert: They don’t. Just check out some of the “winners” on GR Best Reads list.) Anywho, I avoided reading any reviews/looking at ratings and went in with low expectations.

What did I discover? Well, to begin with the first line of the blurb is stupid. The most “lyrical” thing about this novel is the title. There is no purple to be found within the pages of Aristotle and Dante - the prose is simple, the conversation minimal, the emotion palpable, the ideas grand . . . .

“Someday I’m going to discover all the secrets of the universe.”

“What are you going to do with all those secrets, Dante?”

“I’ll know what to do with them. Maybe change the world.”

This was one of the best coming of age stories I’ve ever read. The boys were actually BOYS who spoke like boys with smartass mouths like boys and occasionally broke the rules like boys and questioned their place in the world like boys. AND THE PARENTS WERE ACTUALLY PRESENT!!!! You know how rare that is in YA? Not only were they present, but they were functional (well, nearly). Things weren’t perfect and there was darkness that needed to be explained before there could be light, but there was love and really that’s pretty much the only requirement in order to raise children. Oh, and the characters WEREN’T WHITE. Another rarity! In 2015 we should really be over this being such a BFD, but sadly that isn’t the case. The timeframe being set to the wayback machine of 1987 also helped make me believe this story was really written for an old lady like me to partake in instead of just being a party crasher to something really meant for youngsters only and confirmed that we all could really have the same theme song . . .

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When my husband got home from a meeting last night I was all . . .

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and he was like “you are DEFINITELY not crying, because when you cry you look like this” . . .

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Turns out I was feeling a little bit of everything . . . .

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Since I’m a person who rarely feels ANYTHING (except annoyance and anger), I’m recommending this to anybody who hasn’t read it yet. Every star. Although many of my friends have read Aristotle and Dante's story, credit is going to Matthew for sharing so much of himself with us on Goodreads and for simply being an awesome person who tells me when I really neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed a particular book.

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