Why Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Won ALL the Book Awards

I have been meaning to read this book for far too long, and I am so grateful to one of the wonderful employees who work at the bookshop where we host our YA and Wine Book Club meetings, who insisted that we read this book this year. Thank you, Nathan!

This book deserved every single one of the MANY awards it received and then some. It is one of the most moving coming-of-age stories I have ever read. And I’m sure most people already know this, but I didn’t, and I’m crazy excited, because there is a SEQUEL coming out!!!! It is titled There Will Be Other Summers. There hasn’t been a pub date released yet that I could find, but you can bet I’m going to be first in line when that bad boy comes out!


You can attempt to discover the “secrets of the universe” right alongside Aristotle and Dante while sipping on this STUNNING, galactic themed  Caelum Reserva Chardonnay!


The Nitty Gritty:

  • Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
  • Author: Benjamin Alire Sàenz
  • Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
  • Pub Date: February 21. 2012
  • Pages: 359

GoodReads Description:

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.




So first of all this book won some MAJOR book awards including: the Lambda Literary Award, Stonewall Book Award, an Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award, the Pura Bulpré Narrative Medal, and the Michael L. Printz Award. So naturally, as I was going into this book, I made it my mission to figure out why. What was it about this coming-of-age YA novel that set it apart from its peers?

And, honestly, it did not take long to figure it out. Not only does this book tackle some major issues that young adults, families, and all people face, but it does it in the most raw and honest way that I have ever read.

This was my YA and Wine book club’s January read, and during our discussion one of our members made a comment that I found really interesting. She actually did not like the book. (I know! But to each their own.) The reason she didn’t like it was she found the writing choppy. While I could see where she was coming from when she said that, I felt like the writing style really added to the overall tone and authenticity of the novel. Yes, most of the sentences are short. They are mostly written in an active voice. And the chapters are short, quick, and to the point. But in my opinion that rang so true for a fifteen-year-old boy and for Ari’s character in particular.

Ari is not flowery. He reads poetry, but he doesn’t speak poetically, as most teenagers, and let’s face it most people in general, do not. He is not Augustus Waters by any means. He is uniquely himself and the Sàenz’s writing really highlights his character. That is not to say; however, that this book does not have great quotes in it, because it has quotes on par with those of John Green. They are every bit as poetic as Green’s more verbose and philosophic quotes in their beautiful simplicity.

The depth of emotion in this book is mind-blowing. A lot of times when I read angsty teen books, I find myself thinking things like, “No! Don’t do that!” or “I would never act that way!” But when Ari is angry and emotional, I was just like, “Hell, yes! You be angry! You do that thing!” Because Saenz does such an insanely brilliant job of showing the readers all the pieces of Ari’s life that fuel his anger. He makes you feel all those emotions right with Ari. And he does it all without being the least bit preachy. That is such a fine balance to strike, and Sáenz absolutely nails it!

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I cannot encourage people to read this book enough. And I cannot express how wonderful this book truly is enough.

If you read any book from your backlist this year, please read this one.



This is a truly lovely cover. Not only does it feature Ari’s pickup truck, which ends up being such a wonderful place of escape and growth for him, but it also has an element of whimsy to it, which is reminiscent of Dante’s character, and of how I imagine his sketch book to be. There are also elements that highlight both the characters’ Mexican heritage. Just beautifully done!



While these boys are lovely and each are swoon-worthy  in their own right. That is not what this book is about. This book is about their individual journeys toward discovering who they really are and who they want to be, Ari’s more so than Dante’s. This is a truly brilliant coming-of-age story, and while the love they have for one another is beautiful, and it’s something that is constantly in the peripheral of the story, it is not often the main focus of the scene.


This book is perfect for fans of History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, and The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Actually this book is perfect for anyone who loves YA contemporary. ACTUALLY, this book is perfect for anyone anywhere and NEEDS to be required reading for students everywhere.

About the Author

benjamin-alire-saenz-44544494Benjamin Alire Sáenz is an author of poetry and prose for adults and teens. He is the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the American Book Award for his books for adults. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was a Printz Honor Book, the Stonewall Award winner, the Pura Belpre Award winner, the Lambda Literary Award winner, and a finalist for the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. His first novel for teens, Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, was an ALA Top Ten Book for Young Adults and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His second book for teens, He Forgot to Say Goodbye, won the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, the Southwest Book Award, and was named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. He teaches creative writing at the University of Texas, El Paso.

Have you read this incredible book just yet? Why do you feel it deserved all the awards it received? Are you going to read the sequel?

*All wine recommendations are for strictly for those of legal drinking age only.*


24 thoughts on “Why Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Won ALL the Book Awards

  1. ezinwanyi13 says:

    I am in the minority but I found this book to be slow. I listened to the audio and I just wanted it to be over 🙁
    I am glad you loved it though and the cover is awesome.

    • YAandWine says:

      Thank you so much!!! I’ve found that A LOT of people really like books and wine. Those are my two favorite things hands down! It’s so fun to find other likeminded people. 🙂

  2. LairOfBooks says:

    Your bookshop is AMAZING for recommending this book to your club! this story still lives within me & alongside More Happy Than Not, I could not have found a more AMAZING author. The writing at first caught me off guard but quickly placed me in the rythm of the words. I can’t wait for the sequel since i’ve heard that we get more of Dante’s perspective. Great review <3!

    • YAandWine says:

      They’re the absolute best. And so is this book! I haven’t read More Happy Than Not yet, but I ADORED History is All You Left Me. I literally squealed when I found out there is a sequel coming out for Aristotle and Dante. Just SO many amazing books in the world anymore.

      • LairOfBooks says:

        If you loved Ari & Dante then you will probably love More Happy Than Not….but HIAYLM does blow it out of the water, still though More Happy Than Not is an AMAZING debut novel for Adam & it hit me in ALLLLL the feels lol, didn’t see it coming which is the best part of that book 😉 I agree, there are so many great books hitting the shelves & I am all for diversity so these books in particular make me happy to be a bookworm <3

  3. Donna says:

    I love it when the writing reflects the characters, so the choppy narrative makes sense to me but I can understand why others wouldn’t like it 🙂 Great review! I haven’t read this book but I see it everywhere!

      • Emma's Library says:

        I haven’t read any Adam Silvera but I’ve seen a lot of anticipated hype for the soon to be released History is All You Left Me. YA Contemporary is just not really something I go for anymore and I’m past wanting to read about the same old clichéd teenage/young adult romances. I just tend to pick up Adult contemporary fiction nowadays.

      • YAandWine says:

        Adult contemporary is fun/important to read too, but I do feel like cliches exist in every form and genre of storytelling. There are some incredible YA authors that are coming out with stories that totally break any kind of mold. Like Saenz, Silvera, Jandy Nelson, and Jennifer Niven. What adult contemporaries are you into?

      • Emma's Library says:

        I know there are clichés everywhere but for some reason they just stick out to me more in YA contemporary. I’ve not really read many Adult contemporaries (I’m more a fantasy/historical fiction/crime/classics reader) but a recent one that sticks in my mind is the Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild. It might have a romantic subplot but I really liked it.

      • YAandWine says:

        I’m obviously biased, but I think it depends on which ones you read. I just checked out The Improbability of Love on GoodReads, and it sounds awesome! Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

      • Emma's Library says:

        I mean there are some popular YA Contemporaries that I like but like you said, it depends on what you read. I also just want to read more adult/general fiction anyway because it is what I used to read before discovering YA.


  4. emilymbird says:

    I haven’t read this book yet, but I keep coming back to the beautiful cover. And actually in your review where you discuss the writing style and how some readers found it “choppy” made me want to read it more. Sounds like the kind of writing style I would really like! Adding it to my list!

    • YAandWine says:

      It is a great cover! I thought the writing style was perfect for the book. It fit the character’s communication style so well. I hope you like it as much as I did!

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