Books · coming out · grief · HIV · lgbtqia content · mental health · new adult · own voices author · read the trigger warnings · sequel · young adult

REVIEW: Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

The highly anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed, multiple award-winning novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an achingly romantic, tender tale sure to captivate fans of Adam Silvera and Mary H.K. Choi.

In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.

Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.

The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.

 

Sequel to “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”, Young Adult, coming out, contemporary-historical (late 1980s), HIV/AIDS crisis.

 

 

Sequels are tough. “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” is on my top ten list of favourite books of all time. Be aware, going into this review that I had higher expectations than I may normally have of a book… that has certainly influenced my review.

In this sequel “Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World” Benjamin Alire Sáenz takes us back to the late 80s and the book picks up shortly after the first one ends. Aristotle and Dante have realized they love one another in a world that doesn’t accept same sex partnerships.

Ari and Dante have reached a difficult time in their lives. They are approaching the end of high school, the time at which many people begin to think of them as “men” rather than “boys”, HIV/AIDS is in the media and has become a real concern for gay men. In addition to things changing around them Ari and Dante seem to be changing themselves.

Ari was my favourite character from the first book and that didn’t change for me in this second installment. Ari is the narrator through POV and journal entries that he writes to Dante. He’s exploring the thoughts and feelings that he doesn’t yet feel comfortable speaking aloud. Ari’s journal entries are emotional and heart-felt and very moving.

As Ari comes to terms with his feelings for Dante and the sexuality and emotion of their relationship, he is also becoming closer with his parents. I remember being about Dante’s age when I began to realize how lucky I was to have the parents I did. The way that the author explores the family relationships is wonderful; I felt as though I truly got to know the characters even more than I did in the first book.

The author brings back the 80s well. There’s a sense of fierce curiosity in the main characters that they maintain in spite of the feelings of fear they experience when hearing about HIV/AIDS. I think that this book accurately captures the “strangeness” of the time for the gay community. The thing that brought them joy, love and happiness was suddenly equated with something that could kill them. It’s not an easy time to capture and it’s done well in this book.

I didn’t feel as connected to Ari and Dante in this book. The writing was lovely, but the dialogue felt a little stilted at time and I had a harder time just sinking into the novel. I don’t remember having the issue with the first book – so I was a bit surprised.

There are some challenging issues in this book. There is a significant loss for a character that has a profound impact. Some of the issues explored in this book may be difficult for some people to read.

Overall, this is a good read and I’m sure fans of the first book will enjoy reading more about the epic love of Aristotle and Dante.

 

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) Sudden death of parent and significant supporting character, homophobia accurate to late 1980s, coming out, religious bigotry, mentions of people dying of HIV/AIDS, mentions of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, character passes out, intense emotions.

 

links

Goodreads || Author

I received an ARC of Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World  by Benjamin Alire Sáenz from Simon and Schuster Books via Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.

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