Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe_ Benjamin Alire Saenz

2015 Jul. 25 53

picture from simon & schuster
picture from simon & schuster

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Benjamin Alire Saenz

Simon & Schuster

Sometimes parents loved their sons so much that they made a romance out of their lives. They thought our youth could help us overcome everything. Maybe moms and dads forgot about this one small fact: being on the verge of seventeen could be harsh and painful and confusing.

What the author didn’t tell in the book is that graduating from college can be as harsh and painful and confusing as being on the verge of seventeen.

Stayed up pretty late last night for this book and it’s certainly worth it. It’s an outstandingly beautiful novel. The cover, the typographic palette, the language and the story itself. Everything about this book is enchanting. The wording especially. It’s like something between poetry and prose. It’s almost too pretty for a YA.

It’s a story that doesn’t have a specific “plot". It’s hard to give the synopsis of this book. All I can say is that it’s a story about love, friendship, knowing ourselves, family and growing up. It’s basically about the process of two boys becoming two men via the assistance and accompany of each other.

The characters are highly relatable even if there’s a five year gap between us. Everything they are going through is somehow similar to what’s ahead of us. Figuring out who we truly are and how to fit ourselves into this whole wide world… these are the exact same things we are currently struggling with.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful beautiful story. Please go read it. It’s amazing. It will definitely be one of your all time favorite book. It is THAT good.


p.24 Dante’s father didn’t have any darkness in him. Even his black eyes seemed to be full of light.

p.29 I got to thinking that poems were like  people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get– and never would get.

p.31 That afternoon, I learned two new words. “Inscrutable." And “friend." Words were different when they lived inside of you.

p.55 Different boys lived by different rules.

p.81 I didn’t want to live in my parents’ world and I didn’t have a world of my own.

p.81 I was changing into someone I didn’t know. The change hurt but I didn’t why it hurt.

p.84 So I renamed myself Ari. If I switched the letter, my name was Air. I thought it might be a great thing to be the air. I could be something and nothing at the same time. I could be necessary and also invisible. Everyone would need me and no one would be able to see me.

p.88 It’s like my mom and dad created a whole new world for themselves. I live in their new world. But they understand the old world, the world thy came from– and I don’t. I don’t belong anywhere. That’s the problem.

p.91 But Ari, I don’t always have to understand the people I love.

p.97 Words could be like food– they felt like something in your mouth. They tasted like something.

p.167 The problem with trying hard not to think about something was that you thought about it even more.

p.170 “You and your father, you’re fighting your own private wars."

p.181 I think I should get a life.

p.185 Sometimes, I think everyone is like the people in that painting, everyone lost in their own private universes of pain or sorrow or guilt, everyone remote and unknowable.

p.189 It was strange to feel like the Ari I used to be. Except that wasn’t totally true. The Ari I used to be didn’t exist anymore. And the Ari I was becoming? He didn’t exist yet.

p.200 Maybe my dad just didn’t need words to get by in the world. I wasn’t like that. Well, I was like that on the outside, pretending not to need words. But I wasn’t like that on the inside.

p.213 For a few minutes I wished that Dante and I lived in the universe of boys instead of the universe of almost-men.

p.261 Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere.

p.300 Everyone was always becoming someone else.

p.308 “Dante’s my friend." I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever. And that somehow it felt like it was Dante who had saved my life and not the other way around. I wanted to tell them that he was the first human being aside from my mother who had ever made me want to talk about the things that scared me. I wanted to tell them so many things and yet I didn’t have the words. so I just stupidly repeated myself, “Dante’s my friend."

p.321 It’s like I said, Ari, we don’t always do the right things, you know? We don’t always say the right things. Sometimes, it seems like it just hurts too much to look at something. So you don’t. You just don’t look. But it doesn’t go away, Ari."

p.321 We all have to bear things, Ari. All of us. Your father has to bear the war and what it did to him. You have to bear your own painful journey to becoming a man.

p.335 Senior year. And then life. 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.

p.338 It was easier to talk like a man than to be one.

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