Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning author, poet and children’s writer. His first book of poems, Calendar of Dust won an American Book Award. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of The Universe is his fourth young-adult novel that is set in the Mexican-American diaspora chronicling the life and emotions of 15-year old Aristotle and his friendship with Dante Quintana.


Aristotle is a young Mexican-American teenager navigating through a life of lonesome angst. He spends his summer wandering around alone, unwilling to be friends with the boys he cannot relate to. Then, one day, he meets Dante. The two boys bond over their unusual names and the beauty of the written word. And so the story spreads over the course of two years. Over this period, both the boys come face-to-face with many revelations about themselves and about each other.

The narrative of the text flows in a pace that complements the protagonist’s state of mind. The readers travel with Aristotle as he walks through his multitudinous emotions and repressed feelings about everything that is happening around him. The author has skillfully used language that aptly fits in the tongue of a young teenager without coming across as unnecessarily poetic or profound. The plot engages the reader enough to empathize with both the characters. There is ample scope for character development as Aristotle and Dante learn about each other and come to terms with each other’s flaws.

The important themes of ethnic identity and accepting one’s sexual orientation have been poignantly portrayed by the author. At the same time, the reader is made aware of the harrowing thoughts and events that a young adult often has to go through in this unforgiving world upon choosing to embrace his or her sexual identity.

The author adroitly alters the voice of the narrative as our protagonists grow over the two-year period that the story is spread across. One can see the voice getting more mature as the story progresses. The pace also keeps up with the changing emotions of Aristotle and Dante.

Ameya Rating:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a soul-soothing piece of literature that may overwhelm the readers with a plethora of emotions. With its flowing narrative, mesmerizing wordplay as well as the beautiful portrayal of a friendship blossoming into romance, this book warrants 4 stars out of 5. A casual read with the potentiality to become a life-long favorite, this book is sure to leave the readers with a lasting pain in their hearts.

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