Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2012) by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Ari has always been a bit of a loner. He’s an unofficial only child, with twin sisters in their late twenties, and a brother in prison no one talks about. He’s always been close to his mother, but his father, who served in Vietnam, barely speaks. During summer break before his junior year of high school, Ari meets Dante, an unusually open boy who offers to teach Ari how to swim. Over the summer, the two become good friends, until a car accident and an act of heroism change their lives and their relationship.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a very well-written and charming book that gives unique insight into the life of a teenager, especially one caught between two cultures (Mexican and American). Ari is one of the most well-rounded characters I’ve encountered in some time, and I enjoyed reading how he worked through his many issues with his family, with Dante, and even with Dante’s family. This works well as a piece of LGBTQ literature for those who don’t read much of the genre or don’t enjoy the usual coming out stories. Instead, this presents a story about friendship and accepting each other, as well as accepting one’s self.

Benjamin Alire Saenz’ book has won many big awards in the last year, including the Printz Honor, YALSA Best Fiction Top Ten, and the Stonewall Book Award—all of which are well-deserved!

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