Today, I will be discussing Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. This book makes me feel things, good and bad. Mostly bad, I’ll be honest, but I’ll try not to let this affect my review too much.
Challenging Traditional Stoic Masculinity
At the heart of this story is the relationship between Aristotle and his father. Aristotle’s father is very stoic. He doesn’t talk about his feelings or his past. And, Aristotle mimics this sometimes (or maybe he is just like this, too, as it is a very traditional approach to masculinity).
That connection between father and son challenges the traditional assumptions people tend to make about masculinity. Mainly, it is about a lack of communication, suppressing emotions, and so on.
Mexican American/ LatinX Identity
Another interesting exploration in the novel is the navigation of the Mexican American identity. Throughout the story, Aristotle and Dante struggle to find their place in the world as Mexicans and Americans.
The author questions stereotypes in the novel as well. So, Aristotle gets a truck, and Dante doesn’t. Aristotle’s mother is a teacher, and Dante’s father is a professor. It’s nice. I genuinely mean this.
Positive Portrayals of Parents
While the parents are very different in the story, they are all positive individuals in their kids’ lives. It is a rare feature in young adult literature to see something so lovely. Parents who are active and invested in their offspring’s lives.
Homosexuality and Homophobia
And ultimately, yes, I know the story is also about Aristotle and Dante coming to terms with their sexuality and their feelings toward each other. But, I think the book has lots of other things going on and wanted to address those first.
So, I hope I explained why the book may be a good fit for other people. For me, though, Aristotle was very annoying. He was upsetting for me, because he was rather impulsive, aggressive (thoughtless on what he says and how he acts), and frustrating. He does not grow up or develop over the course of years. It’s baffling.
Ultimately, this is my key point of annoyance with the story: Aristotle and how he treats Dante poorly. Following Aristotle’s perspective made the book even more unpleasant.
Furthermore, the plot (or lack thereof) made it hard for me to stay invested in the characters. Maybe if there was some sort of driving force for the characters to grow, some tension, some conflict that they’re up against, then maybe the book would have been more interesting.
I understand why there’s hype for the book, but I also don’t have any interest in keeping this book on my shelves. It’s not for me. But, maybe you’ll like it.