Thursday, September 5, 2013

Yay for YA: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I've gushed over books that have received the Michael L. Printz Award, or have been honor winners of the award, before, so I'll spare you the swooning with this review.  On the other hand, this book (a Printz honor recipient) won a Stonewall Book Award, as well as the Pura Belpre Award, and probably others but the copy I had access to only had so much cover space for award stickers.  And it has a great title.

Today I shall tell you about Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.  Doesn't it just sound grand?

Checkouts: 1 at the small public library
Typical reader: Teens drawn to literature that isn't heteronormative (I'm not trying for the acronym that keeps growing ...), fans of the author and/or award-winning books
Source: My small public library

Synopsis: In this slice-of-life tale set in the late 1980s, two Mexican-American teen boys become friends and try to find their places in life.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

For having such a grandiose name harkening back to a well-known Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle (Ari) does not have many far-reaching ambitions.  He feels like his life is someone else's idea.  And in the summer of 1987, he was not aspiring to much beyond lazing about for the summer, perhaps at the pool despite not knowing how to swim.  But at the pool, he meets Dante, another Mexican-American teen boy with a lofty name, who offers to teach him how to swim and thus ignites a friendship.

This is a pretty pedestrian story, very slice-of-life, without goals.  Nothing exciting or thrilling happens for the first hundred pages.  (Then something potentially life-changing does.  But you know me, I don't do spoilers.)  Yet it has so much heart.  Plot is secondary to character and relationship growth and development.  Self-discovery and the complexities of friendships are the key elements of this book, and they really shine.

One part I had problem with was the resolution of the story.  I didn't particularly believe it.  Since I don't give away spoilers, it's hard to explain, but it didn't ring true for me.  While I've been known to be a poor judge of a certain characteristic pivotal to the end of the book, I also don't believe I was led as a reader to reach the conclusion that Ari did.  Your mileage may vary.

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