Now, I know every person and their dog has already read and reviewed this book. Published in 2012, I’d have to say Ari and Dante is one of the most groundbreaking YA books focused on LGBTQIAP+ and with good reason. How do I put this eloquently… IT’S F*CKING INCREDIBLE.
Aristotle and Dante is a coming of age novel about friendship, love and family. It especially explores ideas of masculinity and what it means to be a “boy” and a “man”. The books revolves around Aristole and Dante (duh!) and how these two boys who just so happen to be named after famous philosopher’s become friends.
Aristotle (Ari) is struggling with his identity. He’s knows he’s Mexican, and he knows his brother is in prison. He also knows his family will not talk about his brother and this confuses him. He loved his brother and doesn’t understand. He has a lot of trouble sharing his emotions and is very distant.
Dante on the other hand is very in touch with his emotions and not afraid to show it. He’s also Mexican, but unlike Ari he doesn’t “feel” truly Mexican because his upbringing doesn’t reflect Mexican culture. Dante is basically the embodiment of goodness, he’s a beautiful soul and an adorable pure entity who I will protect with all my heart. He loves poetry and he loves his family and I LOVE HIM.
One thing I really loved about this book was how it portrayed families. Firstly we have Ari’s parents. Ari’s dad is somewhat a closed book, he fought in the Vietnam War and has never been the same since. He doesn’t talk about it and Ari struggles with this. This might be why Ari has so much trouble talking about his emotions It’s beautiful watching their relationship grow and change in the book. I love the way it portrayed PTSD and the effect it can have on not just those with PTSD but also their family and friends. Ari’s mum is the “fascist” as Ari likes to lovingly call her. She’s a teacher, she’s strict and she cares about Ari so much. She’s been through some shit. Her son Bernardo (Ari’s brother) is in prison and everyone is tight lipped about it. Ari can hardly remember his brother but dreams about him regularly. His parents refuse to discuss Bernardo, it hurts them too much. We see the way this effects Ari, he brother was his best friend and I don’t think anyone in the world would just accept their best friend leaving for no reason.
Dante on the other hand has a father who is forthcoming with his emotions, visably showing his love through verbal interactions, hugs and kisses. Dante’s mum is also wonderfully expressive and supportive of her son.
In general, I was so happy to see healthy parent relationships. I’ve read so many books where one or both parents are dead, sick, absent or abusive and I somewhat think this is “trendy” in YA. It was definitely nice to see families portrayed this way. This isn’t me having a go at other books at ALL because I know it’s real life to have fucked up families, but it was so nice to see some functional families for once.
The writing is poetic and elegant without being pseudo intellectual. It just… is. It flows so well. I’ve seen some people say the pacing felt off but for me it was perfect. The story is told through Ari’s perspective and I think this effects the pacing and I understood it. There’s no doubt that Ari is miserable in the book and the pacing reflected his (what I think was) depression. The story was also very dialogue heavy which turns out to be my favourite way to read a book! The interactions between Ari and Dante are just so cute and are #friendshipgoals.
I give Aristotle and Dante 5/5 stars and 100% of my tears and love.