“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”
Okay, so if you listen to audio books like I do, then you know that not all audio books are created equal. A very good book can be made mediocre or even possibly bad if it is not read by a great narrator. A mediocre book could be made amazing with an awesome narrator. So this has led me to a strategy whereby I sometimes seek out my next audio book by searching via narrator rather than via author or genre or title. Which led to my amazing discovery that there are some suuuuuuuuuuper famous people who have narrated books…so…
Ready for this one? This book, which all on its own has received a lot of praise and accolades (and I can see why, but we will get to that) is narrated by none other than Lin-Manuel Miranda. *SCREAMING FANS ENTER THE SCENE* Yes, you read that correctly. And oh my goodness, his voice as an audio narrator. I am probably screwed on all audio reads I do from here on out because I don’t think anything can quite compare. So without further ado, here is my review of this *fantastic* read (spoiler-free as usual):
Book Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Amazon, Goodreads)
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Genre: Contemporary YA
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars
I kind of don’t know where to start with this one. I think at the end of this review, I will just leave you with a bunch of my favorite quotes. I can’t put *all* of my favorite quotes because, then, well that’d be the whole book. And that right there tells you how unbelievable the prose in this book is. Every once in a while, you find an author who is somehow able to convey the deepest thoughts and wishes of your heart, in simple yet achingly beautiful words that just ring so true. That is what this author manages to do with this book.
I really liked both main characters. They each had their flaws, but they were just such beautiful impressions of teenage boys, coming into their own bodies and souls and finding out who they are (and who they aren’t). Aristotle, who goes by Ari, is the main character from whose point of view the book is written. He is a sad guy, but he doesn’t really know that he is sad, nor does he know why, and at its center, this just a story about him going on that journey of self-discovery to find out. He happens to meet Dante, who is sweet and open and hilarious, and who becomes the key to Ari finding out just who he is and why he is the way he is.
The boys’ paths of self-discovery are not without their ups and downs, and I found myself laughing and then gasping and even in tears a couple of times as the story wound on. These are two characters for whom you’ll want to cheer, and it’s not absolutely clear what kind of an ending it is going to be (happy or sad), but that’s part of what makes it beautiful, and also totally believable. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t say more. It’s a great plot with a few twists and turns, but mostly, it is just a lyrical and beautiful story about growing up and about first love. If you like a story like that, with a diverse cast of characters, then this book is absolutely for you.
(And then, if you want to do yourself a super big favor, go and find the audio narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. You will not regret it.)
A few of my favorite quotes:
“The summer sun was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain.”
“But love was always something heavy for me. Something I had to carry.”
“I renamed myself Ari. If I switched the letter, my name was Air. I thought it might be a great thing to be the air. I could be something and nothing at the same time. I could be necessary and also invisible. Everyone would need me and no one would be able to see me.”
“I had learned to hide what I felt. No, that’s not true. There was no learning involved. I had been born knowing how to hide what I felt.”
“One of the secrets of the universe was that our instincts were sometimes stronger than our minds.”
“Why did I have to be a good boy just because I had a bad-boy brother? I hated the way my mom and dad did family math.”