Saturday, May 05, 2018

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Where book reccos go, I take it from anyone, most of the time. I feel, if someone has been impressed by a book, there must be something about it. Even if I don't end up liking the book, I look at it as an opportunity to get to know the person who recommended it, better. That's how I came across this book. It was suggested by a very young colleague. I grabbed it when I got the chance. A writer I had never read before - Benjamin Alire Sáenz. A genre I had not explored before, Young Adult Fiction. I am not telling you another new aspect because that might be a spoiler.
The story is about a sweet story a young boy, who seeks to unravel various secrets--secrets about his family, about his friend, about his own self as well.
Aristotle is a boy of 15, biding his time being angry with everything and everyone around him. He is angry with his parents for being secretive, at his well-meaning friends for being intrusive, at himself for being a loner. For a young boy, he has the difficult task of walking a fine balance between temper and politeness. He then meets a boy interestingly named Dante, who goes on become his first and only friend and more. Of course, he spends a good amount of time being angry with Dante too for being so nice, happy and himself. How Ari comes to terms with his family, his loved ones, his own  feelings and himself, form the rest of the story. 

We are presented with a set of six beautiful characters. Ari, Dante and their wonderful parents. Each dealing with their own personal issues, yet full of love and warmth. 

Written in simple yet beautiful language, the book explores complex emotions and various aspects of adolescence with gentleness and finesse. It took me back to my own very difficult teenage years. I now know I wasn't alone, because that's a stage when we hardly have heart-to-heart conversations with anyone, I wouldn't have known better. I have made some mental notes for me refer to when it's my chance as a parent. But then like Ari does, it is up to each person to discover himself as life goes. The only thing we can do is, like Ari's parents do is this. Sort out or at least come to terms with our own battles, first creating enough mental space to take a patient look at a blossoming teenager's needs with all the love and care we are capable of.

The storyline might appear one-dimensional to some, even a tad too Utopian but then, I loved it just for that reason. I'd definitely recommend this book to those who never tire exploring various facets of human nature and behaviour. I'm such a person. 
The book is sprinkled throughout with many thought-provoking and smile-inducing lines. Here are some:

"Words were different when they lived inside of you."***
"Poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn't get - and never would get."***
"The problem with trying hard not to think about something was that you thought about it even more."***
"...we're thinking about things that we don't know we're thinking about and those things, well, they sneak out of us in our dreams."

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