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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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Lydia Yampolsky

on 21 October 2014

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Transcript of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Angel Aristotle Mendoza
The story is told from the point of view of Aristotle, commonly known as Ari, and largely deals with his own internal conflicts. Ari begins the story as a confused, self-doubting, introverted boy. He has a good relationship with his mother, but wants desperately to have a stronger connection with his war veteran father, who returned home from Vietnam a very unforthcoming and reticent man. Ari often thinks that he and his father are similar in this way. Another conflict concerning Ari's family is about his older brother, Bernardo. The Mendoza family have stopped even mentioning Bernardo's name because he is in prison. Ari has fond memories of Bernardo, so he struggles with the fact that there are no pictures of him in the house and no one will say his name. Because his siblings (Bernardo and twin sisters) are several years older than he is, Ari feels like a loner. His thoughts and musings make up a majority of the book, so the reader gets to know him pretty well. What he says and what he chooses not to say also tell the reader a lot. Sometimes his timid nature stops him from speaking his mind. Those who know him best, like his mother and Dante, tell him he is beautiful. Some of Ari's actions also tell the reader a lot. He may be angsty and soft-spoken, but he is also incredibly caring. One major example of a selfless and caring act is when Ari saves Dante from an oncoming truck, and gets hit by the truck instead and badly injured. Another example is how much he loves his dog and how well he cares for her. Ari's internal conflicts, his search for his identity, and his relationships with his family are all closely linked to the central themes and conflicts in the story.
Dante is Ari's best friend and has an enormous effect on Ari's life. From the beginning of their friendship, Ari is baffled by Dante's attitude and unique way of thinking, and he notes how different Dante is from other boys their age. "...he didn't pretend to be stupid and ordinary. He was neither of those things" (Sáenz 19). Dante is exceptionally intelligent, and he shares with Ari his favorite literature, poetry, and art. Dante speaks his mid freely, which is a major difference between the two protagonists. Dante has a social affability and openness that Ari has never had. The reader is familiar with Dante's thoughts and opinions because he shares them so openly. Of course, Ari cares about Dante a lot. They talk often talk on a very personal level, and Dante gives Ari new perspectives on their topics of discussion. Whenever Dante's or Ari's parents talk about Dante, you can tell they adore him. Some things that Dante does demonstrate his open-mindedness. His family moves to Chicago for a year, and in his letters to Ari he describes his first experiences with marijuana and beer. Dante's mother's occupation is the rehabilitation of young users of mood-altering substances. For Dante to have such a different view than his mother shows that he really has his own ideas and values. Another characteristic Dante shows through his actions is sensitiveness. He is brought to tears upon seeing a sparrow shot with BB gun by a couple of kids. Dante plays the main role in Ari's character development and helps resolve one of Ari's main internal conflicts.
If you love beautifully written, thought-provoking stories about strong friendship and love, with unique characters and strong, honest emotion, this is the book for you. Those struggling with certain aspects of their own identities would certainly find
Aristotle and Dante
a compelling read.

A similar book is
Eleanor and Park
by Rainbow Rowell, a young adult love story that deals with issues such as abuse, racism, and body image.

You might want to also check out
Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad.

Praise for
Aristotle and Dante
"I think a lot of thought went into the writing of
Aristotle and Dante
. The emotions feel really honest. You can tell the author is really dedicated to his characters and he does a good job conveying their feelings to the reader."
Works cited
Sáenz, Benjamin Alire.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. Print.
"Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe."
Wordpress
. MissQuerious, 8 April 2014. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
Kimball, Ron. "1957 Chevrolet 1/2 Ton Pickup Truck Red 3/4 Side View On Pavement By Field And Trees." Photograph.
Kimballstock
. n.d. 18 Oct. 2014.
"Tito."
Rocket Dog Rescue
. n.p. n.d. 18 Oct. 2014.
Gericault, Theodore.
The Raft of the Medusa
. 1819. Louvre, Paris. Louvre. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
Conrad, Joseph.
Heart of Darkness
. J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd, 1899. Print.
Rowell, Rainbow.
Eleanor and Park.
St. Martin's Press, 2013. Print.


"One summer night I fell alseep, hoping the world would be different when I woke."
El Paso, Texas, 1987.

Ari
is an angry, lonely, pensive, teenage introvert. He isn't close friends with anyone at school, and he likes it that way.
Then, he meets
Dante
, an open, lively, intelligent boy with a unique personality and perspective on life. They meet at the swimming pool, and Dante teaches Ari how to swim. Then Dante teaches him about books and art and poetry. Ari and Dante, though a seemingly unlikely duo, become the closest of friends as they show each other new perspectives and begin to redefine each other's worlds. Together they discuss the greatest mysteries of their lives and struggle to discover the
secrets of the universe.
"Why do we
smile
?
Why do we feel
alone
?
Why are we
sad
and
confused
?
Why do we read
poetry
?
Why do we
cry
when we see a
painting
?
Why is there a
riot
in the heart
when we
love
?
Why do we feel
shame
?
What is that thing in the pit of your stomach
called
desire
?"
Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Lydia Yampolsky, 15 year old reader
"A beautiful story brilliantly told. Sáenz displays a remarkable and large-hearted gift for understanding teenage boys, their sometimes fraught relationships, and their difficulties in discovering and dealing with the secrets of their universe. The quest is memorable and Ari and Dante are simply wonderful characters!"
Michael Cart, Booklist columnist and YALSA president
Ari's 1957 Chevy pickup, a birthday present from his parents.
Legs, Ari's pitbull/ labrador mix who followed him home from the park. He named her Legs because he found her on the first day tha he had the use of his legs after the accident.
Dante Quintana
The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault, Dante's favorite painting.

"...the thing about artists is that they tell stories. I mean, some paintings are like novels" (Sáenz 185).
Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad was the first book Dante suggested to Ari. Ari loved it.
Discover the Secrets of the Universe with Ari and Dante!
Caution:
Aristotle and Dante
contains strong language, mild violence and drug abuse, and thematic elements.
Full transcript