Thursday, January 26, 2017

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (by Benjamin Alire Saenz)

Recommended by the Goodreads RHC group in the category of "YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+."

I really enjoyed this. The writing is sparse and dialogue-heavy, and reminds me of Paula Danzinger.  It's not my favorite style, and it's a little odd when letters are presented in the same style as Aristotle's internal narration, but I went with it and ultimately it worked for me. Ari is a wonderful, complex character. I enjoyed the exploration of sexuality and of culture (the boys are both Mexican-American, and they each grapple with what that means).  And I found the ending very moving. 

SPOILERS BELOW

I'm still pondering the significance of setting this in the late 1980s and not addressing AIDS at all with any of the characters. In fact, all four parents are pretty accepting, even encouraging, of their sons potentially being gay.  I found each character individually persuasive, but it struck me as anachronistic.  Then I wondered why not just set it in the present-day and avoid the anachronism. And then I thought maybe Saenz had a reason for approaching it this way.  I'm curious to know what others who read it thought about it.  (A quick Google search shows me that it's not just me.)

Anyway, overall, thumbs up on this!

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