Must Read: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

aridanteAuthor:  Benjamin Alire Saenz

Why did I read this book:  This book was recommended to my by several (pretty awesome) people.  I had to purchase.  Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop.


I’m surprised that I’m even able to compose myself to blog about the awesomeness that is known as Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.   I’ve gone back and forth over what I can even say to capture the perfection of this book.  The relatable characters.  The powerful themes.  The beautifully written prose.  This book will give you hope that the universe is still a great place.

Poetically written from the perspective of Aristotle (Ari), Saenz vividly, accurately, and beautifully captures the angst of a lonely, teenage boy growing up trying to figure out his place in his family and in his world.  Ari doesn’t have any friends,  rarely talks to his older siblings, and feels as though his parents won’t open up to him about the truth of why his brother is in prison.  He keeps to himself, is distracted by his loneliness, and is always angry.  He feels different.

Enter, Dante.

Dante and Ari are opposites.   Dante is a talker, is emotional, and is very interested in art and poetry.  Dante seems to have it together – he knows what he wants.  They instantly become friends and are inseparable and soon find out that they have a lot more in common than they thought.  Dante teaches Ari the true meaning of friendship and, together, they discover the secrets of the universe.

The way the story is written, wow!  It’s simple, yet so poetic.  It’s beautiful.  The experiences and emotions faced by the characters are so real!  You can imagine the way Ari and Dante look at each other, you can hear the tone in their voice, you can read their body language.

I love how complex and multi-faceted the characters are – they are struggling to figure out so much: their sexuality, their family, their emotions, their race.  Life is complicated and this book captures that.

The powerful use of dialogue allows for the reader to fill in the blanks in a really interesting way.  While we are not told everything, we are able to figure out how what is going on and what the characters are experiencing.

The narrative voice matures just as much as the characters.  We see Ari and Dante start out as young and insecure, still trying to establish their place in the world.  As the story progresses and the friendship develops, Ari and Dante mature.  Their outlook on the world changes.  Their outlook on their own identity changes and we are able to grow alongside them.  You’ll find yourself cheering them on, sharing in their sorrow, and celebrating in their joy.

I think what I liked most about the book is how Saenz creates such relatable, lovable characters.  I felt like I knew Ari and Dante.  I was in awe of their friendship.  I wanted to be a part of their families (Parents of teenagers could learn a thing or two from how Ari and Dante’s parents).

No matter who you are, you will be able to relate to the characters in some way.  And, if for some reason you can’t relate to them, you’ll be in awe of how beautifully complex they are.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an artistically crafted, powerful exploration of identity, sexuality, friendship, and the importance of family.  This book poignantly captures the coming of age experience that so many teens face and shows the impact that a loving family can have on a teen’s journey to self-acceptance.

Rating:  10/10  (I will definitely read again and recommend to EVERYONE I know!)

Reading Next:  Rumble by Ellen Hopkins


SOLSC Day 21: Don’t Yuck my Yum


(My first blog post – this isn’t as easy as I thought it would be!)

With all that is going on in CPS (and even the world), it’s often difficult to stay positive.  Furlough days.  Job actions.  Reduced pay.  Larger class sizes.  It becomes daunting.  It can definitely yuck your yum.

When things get tough, I need to remind myself of the awesomeness of middle schoolers.  Here’s why:  Today, I walked into the cafeteria to see my principal crouched down next to two students who went along to a youth summit in Springfield this past weekend.  As I approached, I could hear them passionately discussing new legislation what would significantly impact the life of LGBTQ youth.  Seventh graders, fired up about the rights of all people.  Seventh graders, who sacrificed an entire Saturday (with their teacher) to be advocates for people who society does not treat equally.

Listening in on this conversation absolutely made my day.  Heck, it might have even made my year.

If you are ever doubting the future, step into a classroom; listen to what the youth are saying.  The future is bright and I am fortunate enough to work with it each and every day.  It definitely won’t yuck your yum.