This is a story of two 15-year-old boys, Aristotle and Dante, over the course of two summers. The book is told from Aristotle’s (Ari’s) POV. The language is simple. (Comparable to many YA, more straight forward, without literary embellishments).
The story is a blend of coming of age, friendship and love. The family dynamics portrayed, in the way Ari and Dante converse with their individual families and deal with their individual issues, is beautiful and relatable. The Mexican culture adds flavour to the backdrop, and the theme of discovering one’s own identity is threaded through the narrative impeccably.
I have read this book twice, five years apart. And I cried as hard the second time as I did the first time. I felt as much as I did the first time. After the second read, I found answers to questions I hadn’t even known when I was reading this remarkable book for the first time.
I don’t want to delve too deeply into the plot of this book as I don’t want the reader’s decision to read this book, be based on mine, or anybody else’s view of what the plot is. For me, the entire story is summarised in this quote from the book:
“𝑾𝒉𝒚 𝒅𝒐 𝒘𝒆 𝒔𝒎𝒊𝒍𝒆? 𝑾𝒉𝒚 𝒅𝒐 𝒘𝒆 𝒍𝒂𝒖𝒈𝒉? 𝑾𝒉𝒚 𝒅𝒐 𝒘𝒆 𝒇𝒆𝒆𝒍 𝒂𝒍𝒐𝒏𝒆? 𝑾𝒉𝒚 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒘𝒆 𝒔𝒂𝒅 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒇𝒖𝒔𝒆𝒅? 𝑾𝒉𝒚 𝒅𝒐 𝒘𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒅 𝒑𝒐𝒆𝒕𝒓𝒚? 𝑾𝒉𝒚 𝒅𝒐 𝒘𝒆 𝒄𝒓𝒚 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝒘𝒆 𝒔𝒆𝒆 𝒂 𝒑𝒂𝒊𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈? 𝑾𝒉𝒚 𝒊𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒂 𝒓𝒊𝒐𝒕 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒉𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒕 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝒘𝒆 𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆? 𝑾𝒉𝒚 𝒅𝒐 𝒘𝒆 𝒇𝒆𝒆𝒍 𝒔𝒉𝒂𝒎𝒆? 𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒊𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒑𝒊𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒔𝒕𝒐𝒎𝒂𝒄𝒉 𝒄𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒆𝒅 𝒅𝒆𝒔𝒊𝒓𝒆?”
Does the book deal with each and every one of these questions? Yes.
Do we get the answers for them? Maybe.
The answers to the profound questions of life are not statements that can be written down and quoted. Something that I learned from another amazing book called ‘The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ – The Answer to – Life, the Universe, and Everything – is 42. But that doesn’t make sense, does it?
42 is an answer, of course. But then what is the question? Are we asking the right questions? Do we KNOW the right questions?
Over the years, I have read a lot of contemporary fiction. Something that I have come to realise by analysing my emotions and feelings, in the aftermath of these books is this-
The dark books – ones with unhappy-tragic endings and dark, complicated, confused characters that have been done wrong and cannot find their path in life; and the ones that attempt to bring to the fore the myriad unpleasant realities of all the taboo associated with teenage anxiety, depression and other issues – these books are extremely good.
There is something profoundly magical about the books that deal with these very same issues – and show the characters benefiting from professional therapy. Books that have caring, supportive parents and friends. Books that leave you with the overwhelming desire to reach out to your loved ones and hug them for being there.
And I am leaning more and more towards these books, as excellent mediums to introduce the YA audience to the subject. Especially pre-teens. They need to know that there are others (fictional or otherwise), that go through the same gamut of harrowing pre-teen-high-school trauma – as them. And that it is possible to overcome and even learn from these life-altering experiences with the love and support of their families and friends.
The dark ones; I think they can be reserved for the more adult readers, the critiques, the knowledgeable and the elite in the reading community. In hindsight, adolescence feels like over-hyped and over-emotional. In hindsight, we are better equipped and empowered, to deal with and understand those years.
I love this book. I think everyone must read this. Yes, MUST. There are very few books that I recommend with MUST. This is one of them.
Leaving you with another one of my favourite quotes from this book.
“𝑴𝒂𝒚𝒃𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕‘𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒚 𝒊𝒕 𝒘𝒐𝒓𝒌𝒆𝒅. 𝑯𝒊𝒈𝒉 𝒔𝒄𝒉𝒐𝒐𝒍 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒋𝒖𝒔𝒕 𝒂 𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒍𝒐𝒈𝒖𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒍 𝒏𝒐𝒗𝒆𝒍. 𝑬𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚𝒃𝒐𝒅𝒚 𝒈𝒐𝒕 𝒕𝒐 𝒘𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒆 𝒚𝒐𝒖 — 𝒃𝒖𝒕 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒈𝒓𝒂𝒅𝒖𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒅, 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒈𝒐𝒕 𝒕𝒐 𝒘𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒆 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒔𝒆𝒍𝒇. 𝑨𝒕 𝒈𝒓𝒂𝒅𝒖𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒈𝒐𝒕 𝒕𝒐 𝒄𝒐𝒍𝒍𝒆𝒄𝒕 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒕𝒆𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒆𝒓‘𝒔 𝒑𝒆𝒏𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒑𝒂𝒓𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒔‘ 𝒑𝒆𝒏𝒔 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒈𝒐𝒕 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒐𝒘𝒏 𝒑𝒆𝒏. 𝑨𝒏𝒅 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒄𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅 𝒅𝒐 𝒂𝒍𝒍 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈. 𝒀𝒆𝒂𝒉. 𝑾𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅𝒏‘𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒃𝒆 𝒔𝒘𝒆𝒆𝒕?”
That would be sweet Ari; very, very sweet indeed.
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