Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz #bookreview #contemporary #LGBTQ #YA

In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.

Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.

The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.

With the highest recommendations from book club friends, I listened to the first book in this series over the summer, and then was ecstatic when I received an ARC of this highly anticipated sequel.

These boys grabbed my heart in the first book and didn’t let go – Ari, who would rather spend time with his dog than anyone else while pondering the meaning of life, and Dante, a born romantic who wears his heart on his sleeve. They squeezed my heart even tighter this time around and even shattered it at times. This novel is set in the eighties when the AIDS epidemic made headlines every day – when two teenage boys tragically had to hide their sexuality because it wasn’t safe for them to admit they were gay.

“My love for him is silent. There are a thousand things living in that silence.”

Fortunately, these two have a strong support system in their parents and a few select friends. That doesn’t mean they don’t have doubts about who they are. When Ari asks his mother if he’s a sin, it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Plenty of these heartfelt conversations may require tissues, so be prepared.

Ari finally steps out of his comfort zone and allows people who’ve had their hands extended in friendship for years in. He also discovers maybe he and one of his enemies have more in common that he believed. You can never be sure what people are dealing with in their lives.

“When you are standing all alone, the people who notice – those are the people who stand by your side. Those are the people who love you.”

Something I found amusing was how Ari comes to the realization his parents are actual people. After mending the relationship with his father, the two of them spend time together that will profoundly affect Ari for the rest of his life. He also sees the influence his mother has had on her students and the sacrifices she’s made along the way. How his parents met and fell in love.

This is a coming of age story that deals with love, loss, grief, homophobia, and racism, but also offers hope for a better future. As you can see from the above quotes, the writing is beautiful and inspirational, and the characters undergo tremendous growth. It’s a series I’ll continue to recommend.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

22 thoughts on “Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz #bookreview #contemporary #LGBTQ #YA

    1. Christian Coulson is amazing reading The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. I’ve also listened to books where the narrator ruined it for me. Alexa also reads books to me from my Kindle, but I wouldn’t recommend her as a narrator, lol.

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        1. Sorry – errands! Seriously, through unexpected and extremely fortunate circumstances, I had a bottle of Blanton’s held for me last weekend at a local store. Being the thoughtful and selfless mother that I am, I gave it to son #1. I’d better get a hell of a great Christmas present out of this, lol.

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  1. It sounds great, Teri. I don’t read a lot of YA fiction, but I’ve read some pretty amazing books in the genre, and this series sounds like one of those. Thanks for the recommendation and congratulations to the author.

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    1. Some members in one of my book clubs had never read YA until it was my turn to choose a selection. They were very pleasantly shocked, lol. YA books have certainly changed from when we were young!

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  2. Wow, Teri. This sounds so great. You’re review almost had me reaching for the tissues. And the writing seems like its exquisite. I’m such a sucker for gorgeous language. The cover is beautiful too. Argh.. off to Amazon to cram tanother book into my kindle.

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    1. The writing in both of these books is just beautiful. I stopped to reread passages several times. The supportive families are another favorite for me in this series, as well as these adorable boys. Hope you enjoy it, Diana!

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    1. This is definitely a series for you, Sophie. I listened to the first book (narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda – he’s amazing) and read the second. I promise you won’t regret adding this to your TBR!

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    1. The titles of both books in the series are definitely a mouthful, lol. It’s probably not something I would have picked up on my own, but friends in my book club raved about the first book, so I gave it a try. I’m so glad I did. The writing is magnificent.

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