Being young is something difficult to dissect. On one hand, when you’re an adolescent, you think you know everything. But on the other hand, you know you don’t, and everything seems dire. The smallest problems are intensified, as if under a microscope. The processing of emotions seems intelligible at times, as if your life is this…overly complicated, absolutely amazing, and yet depressing thing that no one could possibly understand.
And that’s exactly what Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe looks to convey.
But this is exactly where readers meet Aristotle, or Ari, for short. A lonesome, slightly depressed and lost teenager in need of some guidance. With a PTSD father, a brother in prison, and two older twin sisters, this fifteen-year-old is bound to feel relatively ignored. But all that starts to melt away upon meeting Dante, with a funny voice, from allergies and all.
Dante is the indoor kind of boy who reads poetry and draws. He’s sensitive, and in touch with the things and feelings that Ari has trouble processing. Together, they sort of complete each other in a strangely perfect, although initially confused, sort of way.
While they seem to have nothing in common at first, it becomes clear over time that they’re the best of friends, destined to change each other’s lives forever. Through their friendship, both Ari and Dante learn who they are, and who they’d like to be.
A rather slow-paced book, it doesn’t technically have a central plot, other than the act of growing up. Although, let it be known, that it is the friendship of one summer in 1987, and it’s a sad novel in the end…
The thing about Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, is that it is very much a YA novel, which means it doesn’t have the appeal that crosses genres and age groups. Most YA novels don’t really transcend the barrier of their category as it is, but there are a few. This isn’t one of them, because the story is about self-discovery and self-acceptance, something people tend to figure out in their late teens/early 20’s. By the time someone in their mid-twenties, or older, reads this novel, it becomes more of an artsy nostalgic trip, wrapped in a beautiful cover.
Another con would be the dialogue. YA novels tend to love their witty moments, with their teenage snappy answers, but it seems Aristotle & the Secrets of the Universe took this a little too seriously. The dialogue comes across a little fake, with the characters being just that—characters. They don’t transcend or pop out of the page. They don’t really seem relatable, but again, that could be the age thing we mentioned before. While most teenagers love the novel, it seems few adults do. And it could very well be as simple a reason as we’re used to solid characters who already know who they are, and why. We’re used to the characters that are so colorful, they pop out at you regardless.
You just don’t get that with Ari and Dante.
Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is very much another YA novel with a sweet story. It’s perfect for adolescent readers who feel lost, confused, or even angry. However, although the novel is touching, it doesn’t quite do it for the adult crowd. The characters are so snarky, that they come off as fake. The story doesn’t have a central plot, and because Ari and Dante are teenage boys, going about their business the entire time, it all starts to get a little bland.
The overall verdict? Great read for younger readers, but adults should invest their time, energy, and money, on other reading options.