Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz | Rating: ★★★★★
"Words were different when they lived inside of you."
Rightfully hailed as one of the best LGBTQ based pieces of young adult fiction, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe reminds us what it is like to fall in love for the very first time and all the emotions floating in the teenage heart. And, yes, discover the so-called secrets of the universe as you grow up.
Benjamin has such a beautiful prose that if you don't walk away feeling something, I have no idea what to say to you? It's powerful. It's raw and heartfelt and angry and everything all at once. His voice is exactly what makes YA literature so important. He is everything a writer could aspire to be.
Aristotle and Dante has one of the best portrayals of family life I have ever seen. It isn't always perfect and that's what makes the story flow so well, paired with a strong dynamic between Aristotle and Dante, and the setting. There's a deep sense of anger, secrecy and disappointment, but there's also a whole lot of love between everyone. This is a family. This is the downside to it. This is the warmth to it. It's just... perfectly imperfect and ties into everything so beautifully.
The differences between Aristotle's family and Dante's is so interesting to see because, I feel like, they just mesh well together and it adds something needed to the plot. It also gives us the same vibe that the Aristotle/Dante dynamic does. There are visible differences but not in a bad way. I think, of all the family members for both boys, I loved Dante's the most. Dante experiences so much love in his home life that it's the sort of family bond you want to have or to see portrayed.
Onto the characters and main relationship. I liked seeing the contrast between Aristotle and Dante; they are incredibly different and similar. It's a love story that plays on the opposites attract trope without feeling awkward or sloppy. They're the best of friends. They have space between each other sometimes. Feelings that confuse and grow and... I just adored seeing how they fell together and how their relationship grew to be. From how their friendship formed, to how it developed further. Aristotle and Dante have so many important aspects to their relationship, I'm not sure how to pinpoint anything without leaving something out.
I enjoyed getting to know Aristotle in particular. Dante is loved, too, but I felt so much for Aristotle and that's probably because the story is told from his point of view. He is very, very much so a teenager who is just trying to live day to day and figure things out, including the lack of mentioning his older brother who is in jail. Ah, there's so much to his character that... I can't say much without going and spoiling it for readers, but he's so! Well! Developed! And is deserving of the title as one of the best young adult characters of modern times.
Or, actually, of all time.
The entire story is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. It's easy to get invested in their lives and the lyrical prose, that it's definitely going down in literature history as one of the best.