Aristotle and Dante Discovers the Secrets of the Universe

Rating: 
Author: Benjamin Alire Sàenz
Genres: Young Adult
Pub date: Feb. 2012 (read Apr. 2018)

Yay! I loved this!

I’ve been having a lot of success with YA lately. For awhile I thought I’d maybe finally outgrown the genre, but there’s still some really great contemporaries out there! This was the second book in my monthly challenge to read 3 award winning books. This was one of the soft spoken books that isn’t very plot driven, but develops some really beautiful characters.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is set in 1987 in El Paso, Texas. It’s summer and Ari, who has never been very good at making friends, is trying to pass away the time on his own when he meets Dante at the local pool. Dante seems to get a long with everyone and is well liked, but he’s never really been great at having friends either and the two boys strike up a friendship. Ari struggles to connect with people and is frustrated by his parents refusal to talk about his older brother who has been in prison for most of his life. Dante has a close relationship with his parents, but he struggles with his identity – who he is, what he loves, and what it means to be Mexican.

Like I said, it’s not a plot driven novel, although it does have some shocking plot elements that push the story forward. But ultimately it’s a coming of age story about friends, family, and identity. I love YA books that have a strong family element, especially one that built around understanding and love, rather than conflict and rebellion, which I’d say is probably more popular in YA. I love Ari and Dante’s parents in this book and the relationships that they all built with one another, how they developed and grew over the course of the book. In some ways it felt like a slow-build kind of book, but at the same time I found it hard to put down.

I don’t want to give any of the story away, I think it’s a good book to go into blind. I did and I really enjoyed the experience.

April Reading Challenge

I am really late posting my April Reading Challenge, but I have been working on it!

March was probably my least successful reading challenge to date. I really liked The Thief, but I didn’t love either of the other books I read. I may have went too broad with the “read 3 fantasy books” idea, so I’ve decided to narrow it down a little more this month. My April Reading Challenge will be to:

Read 3 award-winning books

The three books I’ve chosen are:

  1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  2. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Aliré Saenz
  3. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

My first book, The Underground Railroad, was published in 2016 and won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award for fiction. It was also one of Oprah’s book club reads and it won the Goodreads choice awards in historical fiction. The Underground Railroad looks at slavery in the early 1800’s, prior to the civil war, and re-imagines the underground railroad as an actual underground railroad, instead of just the network of secret routes and safe houses that it was in reality. It tells the story of Cora, a young girl who tries to escape the cotton plantation in the south where she’s spent her entire life.

The second book I selected was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I like including young adult books to capture a wide variety of experiences and this one has won a litany of awards. It won the Lambda Literary Award and the Stonewall Book Award for LGBT fiction, the Pura Belpré Narrative medal for Latino fiction, and the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award honour and the Michael L. Printz Award honour. I don’t know a whole lot about the plot of this book, except that it focuses on the friendship that develops between two boys, Aristotle and Dante, and has LGBTQIA+ themes. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it from vloggers I follow, so I’m excited to read it!

The last book on my list is Brown Girl Dreaming, which I bought a copy of a while ago and have been meaning to get to. I have no excuse as this is a middle grade novel written in prose, so I’m expecting it to a pretty quick read. Brown Girl Dreaming won the John Newberry Medal, the National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature. It tells the story of a young girl growing up in the Jim Crow era in South Carolina.

I will admit that I’ve been working on The Underground Railroad for the last week and that I haven’t gotten very far because it has a pretty slow start, but it is finally starting to pick up and I am optimistic.

I am going to have to do some serious reading to fit these all in (plus my book club’s selection) over the next 2 weeks because I am going on vacation towards the end of April to Vietnam for 3 weeks! You likely won’t hear a lot from me during this time, but I’m really looking forward to doing some travel and I’m sure I’ll knock out a book or two on the planes, trains, and beach.