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

You all told me how amazing this book was and I finally read it to see for myself! Aristotle & Dante covers the big stuff like love, friendship, culture, family, sexuality, and violence. But Benjamin Alire Sáenz makes this powerful story go down easy with his precise prose. It’s smart, accessible, and satisfying, and a standout GLBT YA Fiction title.

ari and dante audio

Book: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Simon & Schuster Audio, April 2013

Book Info: Audiobook received for review from Simon & Schuster Audio. Running time: 7.5 hours. Read by: Lin-Manuel Miranda. Also available in e-book or paperback, 368 pages from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

The Story – Ari is fifteen, lives with his mom and dad, and is somewhat of a loner. He meets Dante one summer at the pool, and Dante they bond when Dante teaches Ari to swim. The two become fast friends and spend a lot of time together even though they attend different schools. The pair bonds over their Mexican-American culture, family, books, and life in general. Chemistry hums between them, creating tension as they navigate their feelings.

The Characters – Ari is sarcastic, smart, and sensitive.  He misses his imprisoned older brother, someone his parents refuse to talk about. His relationship with his parents is strained and Ari is having a hard time of it before he meets Dante. Dante is open, sunny and friendly. He has an easy, close relationship with his parents, though there are still some secrets he keeps to himself. Ari and Dante click immediately as friends, and bring out the best in each other. They pledge to always be honest, but agree to keep some topics off limits. Dante’s parents and Ari’s parents also become fast friends, strengthening each family unit, as Ari’s parents begin to let him in more.

The Setting – Aristotle & Dante is set in Texas in the 80s, when there were no cell phones, social media, Internet and the like. (How did we survive is what my daughter wants to know) If you want to hang out with your friends, you have to call the house phone to make plans or just show up at their door.  Ari and Dante spend a lot of time in Dante’s room, or driving around in Ari’s truck and stargazing. They spend some time living in different cities and keep in touch by writing actual letters. I think the historical setting works nicely with Ari and Dante’s story, and isn’t gimmicky.

The Secrets of the Universe  – Each of the characters has something to hide- for instance, Ari’s dad keeps his war stories to himself, and Ari’s mom won’t talk about Ari’s older brother.  Although Dante has a great relationship with his parents, and they are loving and supportive, he doesn’t feel comfortable completely being himself- he doesn’t want to disappoint them.  Ari is struggling with his feelings as well, and can’t admit them to himself, let alone his friends and family. This age is interesting because the teens start to see their parents as real people, and the parents also start to let their kids in more and treat them as adults. Another theme of the book is culture- as Ari & Dante talk frequently about their Mexican-American heritage. And as the title suggestions, Ari & Dante are pondering life’s Big Questions.

The Writing – This is a lovely, lovely book. Sáenz writes an honest, topical, timeless, touching story that’s deserving of all its many awards. (Printz Honor, Stonewall Award, and Lambda Award to name a few)

The AudiobookLin-Manuel Miranda very capably performs this audiobook. He really gets to the essence of the characters with his performance, and reads with personality, humor, and heart. His Dante is spirited and full of life, while Ari has that sardonic sense of humor. Miranda’s pace and tone are appropriate to the story, and the performance enhances Sáenz’s  beautiful words.

Read Aristotle and Dante if you like: literary YA, coming-of-age stories, and authors like David Levithan, Meg Medina, and A.S. King.

Congrats to Anne who won an Aristotle & Dante audiobook!

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14 thoughts on “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Audiobook Review and Giveaway

  1. bookgoonie says:

    So glad you liked it too, but I knew you would.

    1. Lucy says:

      I love that we both picked this up around the same time. Such a good book!

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    This sounds fantastic! Thanks for the giveaway!

    1. Lucy says:

      I think you’ll love this book, Kathy.

  3. Katrina says:

    I loved this book too! Our book group has loved everything we’ve read by Saenz–both his adult and young adult works. Thanks for linking to our review!

    1. Lucy says:

      Ooh I need to try one of Saenz’s Adult titles! Which do you recommend I start with?

      1. Katrina says:

        I read Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club–it’s a series of somewhat connected short stories. Really good, but different from his YA stuff. I’ve just started Names on a Map. I’m not very far into yet, but it seems like it’s going to be a great read. I’ve also heard good things about Carry Me Like Water, but I haven’t had the chance to read it yet

        1. Lucy says:

          Thanks for the recs! They all sound great, and I’m eyeing his YA Last Night I Sang to the Monster too.

  4. Brin Guivera says:

    Great review – I loved this book!

    1. Lucy says:

      Oh yay, I’m glad you loved it too!

  5. I just got my paper copy, but I’m so very partial to audiobooks. So glad to read that the story is a awesome as others have said. Thanks for sharing!

    My Fiction and Poetry Site

  6. Thomas says:

    Ah I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, it’s one of my favorite books! I’d enter the giveaway but I actually want someone else to experience the beauty that is this book. Wonderful review. (:

  7. Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one. You’ve gotten me so pumped to read this one for the read-along that’s happening soon. And such a generous giveaway too! Happy reading Lucy!

  8. […] The time for the read-along is coming. It’s official, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has been chosen so make sure you get your hands on it! It will be running from the 21st-27th. You can win an audiobook from The Reading Date. […]

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