A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
If you’re even thinking about reading this book, just do it. It’s beautiful and heartwarming and makes you a bowl of feels. But I would really recommend picking yourself up a copy of the audiobook. It’s read by the incomparable Lin Manuel Miranda, and trust me, he does such such such a wonderful job with it. I felt he was Ari, and it really put me even more in the story.
This book will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions, and everything is just so muchhhhhhhhhhh. My only complaint about this book? It’s a little slow at times. It’s a coming of age story where they’re not on some epic quest or solving a mystery but instead finding a path of self-discovery. You’re so invested in the characters that you forget about the slowness at times.
The characters were amazingggggggg. They were complex, complicated, and had so much depth. They were endearing and detailed. They had so much heart. I was in so deep with them. I loved Ari. I loved Dante. I loved their parents. I loved Legs even though I couldn’t deal with his name. This book had one of the most lovable and loving families that I’ve ever seen in YA. I wanted to be a part of their families. I wanted to be friends with them. I just loved these characters so MUCH OKAY. I AM NO OKAY. Ugh, Ari’s voice was just so phenomenal and realistic and I just was sitting in my car being his own personal cheerleader because I couldn’t deal with how much I loved being in his head.
I loved the self-discovery as well. The story features two Mexican American boys who are trying to find their places in the world and their sexuality. Ari is trying to tackle his own brother’s hidden legacy as well and how it affects him. Saenz creates realistic events and moments into a compelling story that I was in with so deep. With each page, I felt like I was taking yet another step to seeing Ari become more and more himself.
Saenz has a wonderful writing style as well. He invoked such emotion and depth into each page. He made me love the characters. Love where the story was going. Love each part he came up with. He had good flow – even when things could have gotten REALLY choppy.
The romance was brilliant. It felt natural and organic, and I was invested from the moment I saw them start interacting on the page. Ari and Dante had a wonderful chemistry, but they also had a wonderful friendship. Their relationship was built on mutual push and pull that could have worked brilliantly as just a friendship or the wonderful relationship that they had. Every second of them was great.
Overall, this was simply a wonderful contemporary and I see why it has won so many awards. It deserves them all. The only complaint I had was it got a few slow at parts, but the writing, the characters, the romance, and more always brought this book into amazing heights. I will definitely be trying desperately to get more of Saenz’s books now because he has totally sold me. Five crowns and a Tiana rating!
What do you think? What books do you think should be modern day classics? What are some of your favorite contemporary reads? Let’s discuss in the comments below!