Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe | review | Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Hey guys!

Now, if you got past reading the post title, you’ve probably already read half this post with how long that title is. 😂

For those of you who don’t know, Ari and Dante (no way in hell am I typing that all out, lol) is a “coming of age” contemporary taking place in everyone’s favorite decade: the eighties.

Image result for what we do in the shadows gif
this movie is “what we do in the shadows” and everyone should watch it

It reads more of a modern, to me, but yeah. It is a beautiful book and everyone should read it and I want to drive my truck out to the desert now and-

Yeah, I’ll just let you read the rest of the review 😉

click for goodreads


Um, wow. It’s like this book title is a Fallout Boy song. 😂

Aaanyways. This book. Wow. So much to say.

First off, I’ve been wanting to read this for F O R E V E R. It seemed to take the internet by storm a couple years ago (??), and just yeah. Lotsa people loved it, and many people that I admired reviewed it with lots of love.

And I must say, I was a little disappointed??

But we’ll get back to the positives.

Ari and Dante takes place during the eighties, and while it doesn’t feel like a different time period (wow, referring to the eighties like that is trippy), it is somehow nostalgic (even to someone who wasn’t even alive then). It’s just Ari being Ari and Dante being Dante. It’s … lovely. Has a bittersweet feel to it.

(really, nostalgic is the perfect word)

For the most part, it takes place over Two Summers, so it has a whole lets-have-the-most-epic-summer-ever vibe, which I am so here for. And, really, it’s following the pains of growing up and becoming men. (def not skipping over the awkward parts, lmao)


Ari is our narrator. He is mega quiet and introspective, and I think that there was no other way for this book to go. As it is following the pains of growing up, having Ari’s unique (and relatable – to me) perspective was spot on.

Dante … I was less of a fan. (not that I was so head-over-heels for Ari) He’s very outgoing and blunt, but in a lovable way. Still. I just … I don’t know. I found myself irked with Dante the whole book. However, he was perfect for Ari.

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All four of the parents (Dante’s and Ari’s) were actually pretty awesome. Somehow, they rode the fine line between the two extreme parent types commonly found in YA books these days. They were firm and not mushy in their upbringings (well, maybe not Dante’s quite as much), but still very much caring and interested in their children. Actually, Ari’s mom was my favorite character, I believe.


I loved the writing, mostly.

As I’ve already gone on about, it is very nostalgic and … personal, if that makes sense? There’s such beauty in this book in how there is nothing revolutionary going on. We see Ari face troubles with his “messed up family” (an imprisoned brother) and Dante struggling to find his identity as a Latino.

There are parts where they are just staring at the stars, lying in a truckbed in the middle of the desert. Or sharing favorite books. Deep discussions. Loved it all.

However … there was a bit of a disconnect for me, because it almost felt like nothing happened. Everything was too slow. Too thoughtful. In a way. It actually almost grated me with how intentional everything was. How internal Ari is.


I’ve skimmed over them already, but oh well.

The book progressed very slowly, which is just a personal opinion. Sometimes I love this writing style … unfortunately, I just wasn’t feeling it.

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I really didn’t like Dante. Like, at all. (but to add a positive to this, lmao, I loved seeing how he drew Ari out of his shell 😍)

And actually, I felt like the ending needed another 20-50 pages. I felt like it was all thrown together (not in a this-doesn’t-make-sense way, but rather this-should-have-been-stretched-out-to-fit-with-the-rest-of-the-book). And just overall, I didn’t love the ending. It felt very … abrupt?


Oh. And one more thing. This book is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Yeah.

(why do you think that i was listening to this via audiobook? or reading it at all?)

But yeah. This is a very beautiful, nostalgic book. It deals with a lot of big issues (sexual and racial identity, mainly) in a completely realistic and beautiful way. Ari is a great little introvert who deals all the struggles that as an introvert, I can relate to.

There’s also a dog. Who, spoiler, doesn’t die.

You’re welcome.

Anyways. I recommend this book very very highly. (also, don’t mind my rating. star ratings – at least mine – are based on feeling. i can love a four star more than a five, etc)

So yeah. Go read. this. book. right. now. Or listen to the audiobook. ( <- pls)

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Alrighty. Convo time! Anyone read this book? Thoughts? Also. Any good recs for a nostalgic read? I’m not sure if anyone even understands what I mean when I say that, lol, but yeah. Any Lin-Manuel Miranda fans out there??

5 thoughts on “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe | review | Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Add yours

  1. Yesss you gotta love Lin-Manuel Miranda ❤

    I’ve been meaning to read this book for so long too! I think my sister’s got it so I definitely will steal it at some point. Shame it was a bit disappointing for you… I’m not a big fan of slow pacing either but I’ll give it a go for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

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