Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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A Time Best YA Book of All Time (2021) This Printz Honor Book is a “tender, honest exploration of identity” (Publishers Weekly) that distills lyrical truths about family and friendship.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…

Whenever I read a book about teenage angst, I cannot help but compare them to the fifteen year old me who was much more concerned with getting enough marks to ensure a bright future. I wish I had vision enough to muse about the secrets of the universe. But the fact remains I was merely selfish while Aristotle and Dante were much more generously concerned with the birds, the skies, the rain and the secrets of the universe. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the birds, blue skies, the rain clouds, but they always took a backseat to studies. And maybe that is why Ari and Dante found enlightenment while I merely achieved some marks whose percentage I can’t even remember now.

Aristotle and Dante are two fifteen year olds who are as different as different could be. Yet over the period of one summer, they bond like only two teenage boys can, without common institutions, without shared interest and with totally diverse personalities. They laugh together and learn to share their deepest secrets, which may not come easily to Aristotle but is easy for Dante who has a penchant for asking uncomfortable personal questions. And as they go through a summer so happening as to be a compressed lifetime full of discovery about themselves, they finally become what they each set out to be over another few summers. 

The writing is fluid and beautiful and I felt somewhat unsuitable for the angry young man that Aristotle is. He is someone who  claims not to understand much of poetry yet his inner monologues move as smooth as the lyrics of a song. Dante, with his complete unassuming self and principled stand, comes across as a much more believable character. 

The parents absolutely have all my love and if there are any characters that I fell in love with, it were the two sets of fabulous and understanding parents who knew when to be strict and when to give space to their troubled teenagers. In a character driven story, these are the ones that shine as the pole star. The story moves at an even languid pace throughout with everything tied neatly together at the end.

Recommended for all those who love stories of random connections, of self discovery, love, longings, summers, and their inherent promise.


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