Book Review: Ari & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Holy cow this book has a long title! Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a young adult novel that came with lots of recommendations, lots of awards on the cover (um, I’m counting 4!?), and lots of words in the title.

Book Review: Ari & Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on February 21st 2012
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Narrator: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Length: 7 hours and 29 minutes
Format: Audiobook

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

I went into this book expecting it to be an immediate all-time favorite for me (like Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sundoesn’t help that they’ve won some of the same awards), and I think it was all that expectation that made me find the book underwhelming.

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Mexican-American, coming-of-age, friendship

The story is about two very different, young Mexican-American loners who develop a friendship after Dante decides to teach Ari how to swim at a local pool. The story follows them along as they navigate the hurdles of life, the challenges of family, and the hardships of being different while growing into young men.

On the whole, the story is lovely and their friendship is heart-warming; however, I found the entire thing somewhat predictable. Maybe it’s written for a younger audience than I realized? Maybe Sáenz wanted that simplicity? I don’t know, but when the ending finally happened, I smiled and felt a few warm-fuzzies, but I was also thinking, “But of course.


I won’t be thrusting this book in my friend’s faces and forcing them to read it, but I also wouldn’t discourage someone from reading it if it seemed like it was their type of book. The vast majority of folks out there who have read this novel loved it, so I would encourage you to at least read the synopsis on Goodreads. If it sounds like your type of book, give it a go.

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If you’ve read this book, what were your thoughts? 
If you haven’t read the book, did you read the synopsis on Goodreads? What did you think?

Get it here: Amazon. Barnes & Noble. The Book Depository.

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  1. I have to say: this is my favorite book of all times. I also LOVE I’ll Give You The Sun, but I think Ari and Dante is more of a character-driven novel. Both books do a fantastic job while exploring sexuality and family, but I think I’ll Give You The Sun has also a great plot, in which you enjoy picking up the pieces and figuring out these characters’ stories, which doesn’t really happen in Ari & Dante. I’m glad you still enjoyed it, though! 😀

    1. I think I liked the unknown stuff in I’ll Give you the Sun, whereas Ari & Dante is a lot more about the characters like you said. Probably why I liked IGYTS a bit more (: They are both great books, though! Thanks for stopping by!