Ten thousand kisses for Dante.
This book made me cry so many times, and the characters cried so many times, and we are all just swimming in a pool of our tears. In a good way, though. You’ll love it, I swear.
I almost read this book a few years ago but I was too young to realize the ~implications~ of the back summary, so I thought this was about two really close friends. (I mean it is, but.) In fact, it’s about exploring sexuality and friendship and love and what all of that means and let me tell you: it is art. Speaking of the back summary:
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.
Their names are Aristotle and Dante. Mmm. I love them. Also, the summary says Dante is a know-it-all, which implies that Dante is not the precious, wonderful, sweet human that he actually is. I love him. And Ari, but Ari is a little less soft.
This book was very fast-paced, I thought; Dante and Ari are close friends by page 20 or so, and the small chapters make it even easier to read. It was so good, and the internal conflict Ari has going on is so! good! It hurts; I ache with my love for these two.
Something else that I really thought was great and thought-provoking about this is the involvement of the parents. Most YA novels I read are about main characters whose parents make infrequent cameos at best, but Dante and Ari’s parents were essential to the plot and conflicts of the novel. The bond that both boys have with their parents was so strong and good, and it developed so nicely throughout the novel. Both Dante and Ari start the book feeling unsure about at least one of their parents, but by the end they’re closer and speaking and it’s beautiful.
Ari’s main problem in the novel in the novel is his brother, who is in prison. No one in his family is willing to even speak his brother’s name, so Ari just has to live with the knowledge that his brother did something terrible and it left holes in his parents. His dad is a war veteran, also, so he’s pretty messed up from that, too.
Dante struggles a lot with his sexuality. He comes out to Ari with relative ease, but he’s scared to disappoint his parents. He’s an only child, and he doesn’t want to ruin their only hopes at grandchildren by being gay. (Even though Dante’s parents love him more than they could ever love anything else and would sooner die than be disappointed in him for something he can’t control.)
I love Ari and Dante’s relationship because they’re so different but they fit so well. They bring out such wonderful things in each other. For example, Ari doesn’t think he’s smart but Dante has them reading poetry together and generally doing other intelligent things.
Also! Ari and Dante are both Mexican-American, and Dante is a little uncomfortable with that because he doesn’t think he’s Mexican enough or American enough, but Ari doesn’t mind it.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is so good and lyrical and important. It deals with race issues, sexuality, strong and beautiful friendships, parental bonds, and so much more. Sometimes I think about it and cry real woman tears.