Saturday, February 11, 2017

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda (audio)

Ari is fifteen, growing up in El Paso in the late 1980s. He has two much older sisters, and an older brother in prison. He was the surprise baby after his dad came back from Vietnam. Ari mostly keeps to himself, but that summer, he meets a boy named Dante at the pool. Dante teaches Ari how to swim and they become fast friends. They make up games, they swim a lot, they play in the streets, and then something happens and everything changes. for the next year they are separated, and when Dante comes back to El Paso, their relationship is different, no matter how much Ari wants it to remain the same.

I've rarely read a more powerful book about friendship, about love, about families, about coming to terms with who you are as a person, and about acceptance. I was really thrilled with this book showing amazing role models with the parents and showing a more understanding and open side of the Latin culture that is often portrayed as very macho and singular. Instead the world of Ari and Dante is multifaceted and has great depth. The book is brutally honest, in a way that sometimes feels like ripping off a scab, that can hurt. But that in the end also promotes healing by exposing wounds to the sunlight. It's a beautiful, powerful story I am so glad I read.

The narration was truly excellent. This audiobook was recommended to me by a teenage girl who is obsessed with Mr. Miranda, which is the only reason she listened to the audio, but for an Anglo women without much Latino exposure, having the accents perfectly right and the pronunciations, really made the book extra-accessible to me.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I checked this eaudiobook out of the library via Overdrive.


bermudaonion said...

This sounds wonderful and I think audio is probably the way to go with it.

Literary Feline said...

I would really like to read this one. In fact, it's been on my radar for awhile now. I am so glad you recommend it. This sounds like a must read.