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

By Violet Webster

A few weeks ago, I got a recommendation from a friend to read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. As my friends could tell you, I have not stopped talking about it since I read it. The story follows Aristotle Mendoza, a fifteen-year-old boy in the summer of 1987. He has no plans, so he decides to walk to the neighborhood pool where he meets Dante Quintana. He and Dante spend the rest of the summer exploring their city and its surrounding deserts. The story twists and turns, as Dante and Aristotle grow and change through time and distance.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe explores themes of queer identity, Mexican-American identity, and masculine gender roles in a time immediately following the Vietnam War. The story still manages to be relatable to me, a sixteen-year-old, white girl in the year 2019.  It’s a coming of age story about queer folks that isn’t a coming out story, which is refreshing in a genre that seems to be filled with nothing else. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the amazing Lin Manuel-Miranda, and was astonished by the beautiful imagery and descriptive storytelling that is perfectly orated by Miranda. I have since re-read the book in paper format and was not disappointed.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone, especially those looking for an original queer narrative or a book to give you a little bit of sunshine during a gloomy Cleveland winter. If you have already read this novel, I would also recommend They Both Die in the End by Adam Silvera, The Raven Cycle, a series by Maggie Stiefvater, or I would encourage you to wait for the upcoming sequel following Aristotle and Dante titled, There Will Be Other Summers!