Archive | September, 2014

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

30 Sep

AriDanteAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers;
Published: February 2012

Audio Book Published: April 2013

Since starting to work south of the city, it is my preferred choice to listen to an audio book during the drive.  In fact, I usually catch up on a favored murder mystery in the car.  It takes about 2 to 3 weeks of listening during the morning and afternoon commute only to hear a book.  And, I rarely listen to a book I’ve read on paper.  It’s a quirk, but it’s my quirk.

When I couldn’t get the author I wanted, I searched the library’s Overdrive for another book.  I have no idea why I choose this one.  I have no idea why I started to listen, but I can tell you why I kept listening.  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was like unraveling a lovely poem.  The slow, steady growth of the friendship between two boys was touching.  Mix it with literary references that made me want to stop the car and look them up and you have a good story.

Aristotle is an isolated 15 year old boy.  Not completely friendless, but solitary.  On a slow summer’s day, he meets Dante, an irrepressible young man with an outgoing way and fearlessness towards life.  Or so it seems to Ari.  The story extends over the summer with a scary accident, the following school year and the following summer with a scary attack as the boys experiment with life – but not too harshly because as Dante says “we’re really good guys.”  Ari struggles to be 15 and then 16.  He wants to understand his family, his missing brother, and why he is the way he is. Dante shares his secret – he is attracted to other boys.  Ari’s fine with Dante’s announcement, but it doesn’t affect him.  Or does it?

I didn’t really pay attention to the narrator at first, except that his voice was very familiar.  Then I looked it up.  Lin-Manual Miranda of the Broadway hit “In the Heights”.  If you have ever enjoyed an audio book, or never enjoyed one, try this.  The combination of the story, the words and the narrator are irresistible.

Recommended: Grades 9 & up

Note:  I remember listening and wondering if my 15 year old son would enjoy this book.  Then afraid he’d think I was critiquing his life or sexuality if I suggested it.  Then thinking I was just going to get the book and hand it to him anyway simply because he would enjoy a well-written book.  When I finished listening, I was picking up carpool and decided to return the book which is always an event for me with Overdrive.  As I fumbled with my phone trying to return it, my son arrived at carpool and glanced over to see what I had been listening to.  He smiled and said:”That was a good book.  Did you like it?”  “When did you read it?”  “At the start of the summer – it was really good.” Yes, it is.