Friday, June 5, 2015

Audiobook Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Narrator: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Published: February 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
(Amazon / Goodreads / Audible)

Synopsis: A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz. 

 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.

As I was heading home from BEA I realized I needed a new audiobook to keep me company. I looked through my planned reads for the month (themed months remember) and then my hold on this audiobook from the library popped up in my email I knew that it was decided. I had seen that Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda and I knew that I had to listen to it. And I'm so glad I did. Not only did he perfectly capture the characters and tone of the story but what a beautiful and moving story.

First and foremost, Benjamin Alire Saenz's writing style is absolutely gorgeous. The synopsis calls it a "lyrical novel" and that is exactly what it is. Saez is a poet. No literally, this man is a poet, he has written and published poetry. It shows in his writing-style. It's got this lyrical and sweeping quality to it that immerses you in the world and the characters that I don't often feel when it comes to contemporary novels. This poetic quality also helped it perfectly translate to the audiobook format. You would think that it might lull you into a stupor that makes it hard to comprehend what is happening but it doesn't. It's soothing and beautiful but in the best possible way. It really evokes a lot of emotion. It's the kind of book that will have you laughing, crying, cheering, and anxious sometimes all at once. It's just so beautiful and poetic.

That beauty of the writing style contrasted with the reality of the plot in this book. It's a somewhat harsh portrayal of growing up. Things aren't easy for these characters and they are placed in some really tough situations that have life-changing consequences. I'm not sure why but I didn't expect to like the plot of this book as much as I did. I know everyone really loves it but my history with contemporary novels made me nervous. But it had everything that I love in my "realistic fiction." At the heart of the story it was a coming-of-age for a boy who is slightly nerdy and unpopular. Throughout the course of the novel he learns so much about himself and the world around him. But it's also a story about friendship and family. About the relationships you have with people and how they can influence you just as much as anything else. It perfectly walked the line between humor, heart, and heaviness. It drew you and slowly built to a conclusion that had me invested so much that I couldn't hold back the feels.

Most of those feels probably comes from the fact that I really loved the characters in this book. Our main characters, Aristotle and Dante were so fantastic and perfect. They are both so different and similar. They are the types of characters that I love. Slightly nerdy and quirky but in a genuine sort of way but with strengths and weaknesses that make them well-rounded and interesting. They were also so great together. They're friendship was sweet and honest. I loved them together, I wanted to be their friend. But I also really liked many of the other secondary characters like Aristotle's other friends and their parents. In a lot of YA the parents are not very involved but here they were a huge part of the story and it worked so well.

But so much worked so well. Usually when I love a book I can go on and on about how wonderful it is but for Aristotle and Dante I feel like I can't even put into words how brilliant it was. There is a lot of talk lately about diverse books in YA and this is without a doubt one of the best I have ever read. It handles ideas of race, sexual identity, and socio-economic status with care making an interesting and provocative story that will stick with you long after you have finished reading. It's a quick read and worth every page.

I give Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: BUY! An absolutely beautiful and brilliant story. I know so many people who love this book and I completely understand why. The writing is lyrical and engaging, the plot is interesting and complex, and the characters are likable and well-rounded. It is one of the best contemporary novels I have ever read. I loved it!

Have you read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. Wow, I really need to bump this up my TBR. It sounds fantastic! I've found that poets often write good books, at least stylistically. They pay more attention to every individual word than others do. I'm excited to immerse myself in that kind of story. (Also, yay for there actually being parents!)

    Sarcasm & Lemons

    1. Yes, you do need to bump it up on your TBR. It's amazing and beautiful. I agree about poets writing really thoughtful books. They just really seem to flow so well.

  2. Great review. This book has been sitting on my shelf for months, and I still haven’t gotten to it. Hopefully I’ll be able to read it this summer.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. YES! It's a great summer read. It's fun but serious. Definite beach read material. I hope you read it and love it!

  3. I've been seeing this book around the book blog circuit for ages, and I really want to read it! I'm happy to see another positive endorsement of it. I'll have to get around to it soon! Great review! ♥

    1. I've seen it around a lot as well. It's a great summer read and I loved it. I hope you check it out and enjoy it.

  4. Just nabbed the audio of this although i was sure I would like it. Now i am thrilled since i got it on sale! WWOOO_HOOO!
    <3 Britt

  5. Agreed!! I read this one last year as part of my online book club and totally loved it to bits!!