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.

Tiger Lily

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: .5
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Read: Feb. 2018

Apparently I’m on a bit of EpicReads kick and have just read two books in a row recommended by Margot Wood. I was a little skeptical about whether I would actually like Ruined or not, but I loved it. Tiger Lily I suspected I would really like, and I did, but maybe not quite as much as a thought I would.

You’ll have to forgive my ignorance of the Peter Pan universe, I have only ever seen the Disney film and that was ages ago, so I actually remember very little about Peter Pan, with the exception that he’s the boy that never grows up. I didn’t remember who Tiger Lily was at all, but this story basically focuses on the love story Tiger Lily has with Peter before Wendy shows up. The story is narrated by Tinkerbell, who can’t speak, but follows Tiger Lily around and is a little bit of an omniscient narrator since she can flit back and forth and spy on all the characters.

First of all, the writing is beautiful! Props to Jodi Lynn Anderson, this is the first of her books that I’ve read and I was really impressed with the writing. I never really cared for Tinkerbell in the film, but she makes a damn good narrator. In some ways this is a coming of age story. Tiger Lily has always been a bit of an outcast in her village and when she saves an Englishman who washes up on shore she becomes even more of a pariah because the villagers are scared of catching the “aging disease” from him since they never die of old age.

When she is betrothed to marry a mean villager named Giant, Tiger Lily starts spending more time away from the village and meets Peter and the lost boys and they all become very much enamoured to one another. Peter is impetuous, rash, and often unreasonable; he has a need to always be the strongest and the smartest. As the leader of the lost boys, he takes on a lot of responsibility in taking care of the boys, but he is also very lonely. He has been a boy for a very long time and you do get the sense that he is ready to grow up.

Tiger Lily is very much a young girl. She also makes rash decisions and doesn’t think too much about the consequences of her actions. She loves her village and Tik Tok, the shaman who found and raised her, but she also yearns for more. She doesn’t want to be trapped in a marriage to Giant and spend forever cooking and cleaning for him. Peter enables her escape into a new world where there are no rules. She wants to be a part of Peter’s world, but she also finds it impossible to leave her village behind.

I liked that the characters in this novel had so much depth. I didn’t really like Peter, but I liked how Anderson wrote all of these characters and captured their essence. There is definitely tragedy in this story and it is incredibly heartbreaking. The characters are all looking for and needing different things and yet nobody can be what the other person needs them to be. There are several stories going on at once and you can very much feel the era of change that is upon the island. The world is progressing, but Neverland has always been a place onto itself. The Englishman eventually integrates himself into the village and pushes christianity on the villagers, shaming the villagers for their false idols and Tik Tok for dressing in women’s clothes. It’s hard to watch the villagers forsake their traditional spirits and way of life, but it’s equally upsetting to witness the ignorance that has flourished in the village for years.

It’s a very interesting story. I think I’m probably at a 3.5 for my rating and I can’t quite pinpoint what I didn’t love about it. It’s a bit slow moving in the beginning and I never really got super into it. The writing was definitely my favourite part and how heartbreaking the story is. I really did grow to love these characters and I really felt for their hardships.