Reading Log

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe — Benjamin Alire

Genre: Fiction

Despite all the rage and recommendations surrounding this book, I spent most of my time listening to it feeling disappointed. Not because it wasn’t a well written, well read book, but because it had been sold to me as the love story of two young men but did not feel immersed in a love story.

I waited and wished for those heart swelling moments I usually get when reading love stories. You know the ones– when you can feel the anticipation and excitement of young hope and innocence and everything inside of you wants one party to sweep the other off their feet and profess their love. They were missing. So, too, were the feelings of utter exasperation that the main party just doesn’t see it,

“HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE IT?” — me, typically, screaming out loud at dumb protagonists who refuse to acknowledge the reality I’m watching unfold before their eyes.

This is a story of two Mexican-American young men who meet one summer and quickly become friends (a first time for both of them). Their friendship explores the many aspects of identity, from racial/ethnic, to sexual, to the ever pervasive “Who am I?”. The story told from Ari’s point of view grapples with these things throughout, while looking at Dante as being so much more sure of himself. The boys grow together in many ways, their stories and feelings entangling and Aristotle attempts to make sense of reality and his feelings. Both boys are mature beyond their years and more emotional than their peers.

The audio book, read by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is well done, but it was hard to pinpoint how old Aristotle was supposed to be (the naive manner in which he begins the story left me wondering whether we was 12 or 13 versus the actual 15 that he was), and what his true feelings for Dante were. Often, it was described simply as a friendship, the kind that all young people have with someone new. Hints of there being more were spread throughout, but between the reading and my own calculating mind it was hard to feel overtaken by the plot line.


Somehow, the tender moments were not relayed to me through the reading as much as I had expected, and I’m amazed at the people who drafted the imagery above. Now, 2 for 2 (remember how I didn’t feel as involved in Boy Meets Boy, which I craved to read for so many years?), I’m beginning to believe that love stories are not meant to be heard, but rather to be read. I will be picking up this title, and likely Boy Meets Boy, again and reading it for myself to become immersed in the story and to feel the nuance in the moments. I’ll save the audio book time for books I want to know, not feel.

Saenz, B. (2015). Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe. [Audio book, read by: Lin-Manuel Miranda]. New York, NY.: Simon & Schuster Audio.


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