Narrator: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on 09 April 2013
Genres: Adolescence, Contemporary (No Romance Focus), Family, Friendship, GLBT, People of Color, Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Length: 7 hours and 29 minutes
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Place(s) Traveled To: El Paso, Texas // Mesilla, New Mexico // Tuscon, Arizona (1987-1988)
First Line(s): One summer night I fell asleep, hoping the world would be different when I woke.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. All I knew was that when I was looking for readalike recommendations for Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (my review) this was a title that was mentioned often. As I was in need of a new audio and the BPL had a digital copy to borrow I took it as a sign and requested. I then quickly feel head over heals for Aristotle Mendoza and Dante Quintana. Ari is a loner and so he doesn’t know what to make of Dante when he approaches him and offers to teach him to swim. Ari tries to push Dante away but its not long before the two share an unbreakable bond. The narrator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, made for a perfect Aristotle and I think that he captured Ari’s voice perfectly. Miranda got all of Ari’s angst and inner turmoil as he tried to figure out his place in the universe.
Aristotle and Dante is a great coming of age story as the two friends grow up in the late 80s in that odd in-between state of no long boys but not really adults either. There is lots of confusion and struggle as they try to become their own person even as their parents don’t always want to let them go. Aristotle and Dante is a lyrical read and Miranda’s narration just really brings the words of the story to life. And the words that make up this story! Oh my stars, Sáenz writes such a beautiful story that I just wanted to quote ALL THE THINGS because almost every line had some meaning or resonated with me in some way. That beautiful prose along with Miranda’s excellent narration helped give me all the feels with this book and even now, just thinking of the story, it makes my heart ache in that way that I love.
At its core, Aristotle and Dante, is a book about friendship as well as a book about identity. Its easy to forget the struggles of being a not-quite-adult but Sáenz does an amazing job of capturing that time in a person’s life. I loved Ari and hearing his inner thoughts but where this book shines is in the richness of the language and the secondary characters. Ari’s parents, Dante, and all the others really flesh out this story and bring it to life. When listening, you are immersed in Ari’s world and you become part of the story. I didn’t feel as though I was an observer I felt like I was right there in this world and I hated when it ended.
Aristotle and Dante isn’t a perfect read and there were times when I felt it was a bit disjointed but overall this was a story that I fell in love with. Its a book that I wished was longer so I could spend more time with this amazing cast of characters. Its also a book that I rushed out and bought a physical copy of and immediately re-read all of my favorite bits almost before the last word of the audio was spoken. This was a book that may not appeal to all but for me, I was in the right time and place for it and it was everything I didn’t know that I wanted in a book. This book. Oh this book. I really don’t know what else to say but if you trust my opinion, even the tiniest bit, then you need this book in your life.
Add Anything Could Happen by Will Walton to Goodreads. (Review coming soon) – Similar themes of searching for ones identity.
Add Simon vs, the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli to Goodreads. (Click here for my review.) – Similar themes of friendship, character voice, and feels.
A book and a song
Every so often I stumble across a song that just makes me think of a book. This song often makes for a good soundtrack to the story in some way. For Aristotle and Dante that song is I Lived by One Republic.