My final read for 2019 and boy was it a great one! For something different, I listened to the audiobook of this (through my local library using the Libby app), read by Lin Manuel Miranda.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe follows Aristotle through his somewhat lonely teenage years, but when he meets Dante at the swimming pool one summer, he finds a lifelong friend. Together, they navigate family relationships, tackle the big questions of life in the way maybe only teenage boys do, and learn so much about themselves through each other.
The characters in this novel are gorgeous and written with such emotional depth it was breathtaking, especially for what is technically a Young Adult read. Aristotle (Ari) is sad, and angry at the world, but hides these emotions behind being alone. We get insight into his whirlwind of emotions and feelings which he keeps bottled up, and it’s beautiful to read him slowly open up throughout the story. Then there is Dante – open, curious, likeable (though he doesn’t have any friends either). I loved the way Dante questions everything, but is okay with not getting answers, too. Even the more side characters like the parents of both boys are given unique voices and go through their own journeys. I especially loved that the parents learned as much from their sons as the sons learned from them – it was beautiful reading all these characters evolve and open up throughout the book!
Another secret of the universe: sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest morning could end in a downpour. could end in lightning and thunder.
I adored the thoughtful prose throughout, and Saenz has a beautiful ability to distil a feeling into a perfect metaphor, or translate feelings viscerally on the page. My heart was swelling and breaking alongside the characters’, which to me is always a sign of a fantastically written book.
Of course, the INCREDIBLE narration from Lin Manuel Miranda also contributed to the emotion and heart of this story. Though I have no doubt that the book is just as excellent in written form, Miranda absolutely lifts it off the page and makes it come alive like few audiobook narrators I’ve come across manage to do. The voices, accents, and feeling in his voice all came together beautifully to make this the perfect reading experience.
I’ll leave you with a thought that stuck with me, a quote from Ari speaking about Dante:
I didn’t understand how you could live in a mean world and not have any of that meanness rub off on you.
I hope my 2020 sees me become a little more like Dante – open to new experiences, curious about the world, and not letting the meanness and madness of this world rub off on me too much. That’s my new years’ wish for you, too.
Read if: You want an emotional and heartfelt coming of age story.
Page Length: 368
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Have you read this book (or listened to the audio)? Or, do you have any other audiobook recommendations for me this year?