Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: The Book That Changed Everything
"This book didn't save my life. This book gave me my life."
Around five years ago, I remember roaming the endless aisles of unique stories, my fingers tracing the spine of all the books surrounding me. I remember very clearly just how difficult it was for me to convince my parents to make a quick stop at the bookstore, and I especially remember just how giddy I felt while wandering around this infinite paradise of narratives I have yet to read.
My parents gave me thirty minutes (or was it an hour?) to look for the books I want to take home, and I immediately set off into a new quest with a single goal in mind- find a book.
The quest was actually very easy to complete, certainly easier than the 12 Labors of Heracles, but just as complicated. I needed to find a book, but not just any book. I needed to find a story that just took my breath away. A story that made me dream with my eyes on those pages. A story that showed me I wasn't alone.
The answer came in the form of a paperback in the YA Contemporaries section, a dark blue cover that wasn't noticeable against all the other bright hues. The smooth spine, I noticed, had a full moon at the very top, along with stars and the fading sky. The title of the book was written in a unique font.
Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe
If someone were to ask me now why I decided that day to pick up that specific book on that day, I would not have an answer. I think I would just smile, and tell them to read the book. And once they come back, familiar with the world of Ari and Dante, they would just understand why I chose it.
This story, written by the talented Benjamin Alire Sáenz, is the journey of two boys who stand at complete opposite sides of the universe, and yet, help each other discover their true selves. Aristotle doesn't believe in himself, and Dante believes too much. Dante lives in a world of poetry, and Aristotle in a world of shadows. But they learn that they can discover the secrets of the universe, together.
Aristotle and Dante are two characters (though in reality, they are so much more than just characters to me) that helped me begin my own journey to discover and become my true self. I remember opening the book for the very first time, on the line of the bookstore to pay, and reading the first chapter. I was immediately intrigued, and the book never left my hands that day. I don't remember at what time I finished reading the book, I just know that the sky outside was barely lit by dim stars, and that my eyes were slightly burning. My body was tired, but my heart was alive like never before.
"What do you want, Ari? And then I answered myself: 'A life." This book is filled with many questions, observations, secrets that just make me realize what a mysterious world we live in. When Ari answered to himself that what he wants is a life, I realized at that moment that I also want that. I want a life. A life where every day is a new secret to discover.
When people ask me what my favorite book is, I always stall and make them clarify- did they mean my favorite book from my favorite series? Or my favorite fantasy book? Or my favorite mystery? I never told them that my favorite book was Aristotle and Dante, partly because I was slightly ashamed of loving a not very known book, but mainly because I just felt scared of telling someone something that was the very definition of my life.
And to this day, I sometimes still ask myself- why is this book different than all the others? The answer always lies within the worn pages of the book, within the acceptance of Ari and the love of Dante. This book is different because it is true, and painful, and honest, and real. This book has taught me that it is okay to feel alone, and to be broken, and to be fixed with the help of others. This book taught me to accept love and myself, to not be ashamed of who I am or what I love.
This book didn't save my life. This book gave me my life.
In the last pages of the book, Ari finally realizes the truth. "This was what was wrong with me. All this time I had been trying to figure out the secrets of the universe, the secrets of my own body, of my own heart. All of those answers had always been so close and yet I had always fought them without even knowing it." Never before had a paragraph from a book completely and utterly left me breathless at just how true this is. Never before had all of my thoughts been captured so clearly.
To this day, I sometimes still pick up my battered copy, and just read the story again from the beginning. Other times I simply read the paragraphs that give me the strength that I need to keep on searching for the secrets of this universe. But the fact remains that I always keep coming back to Aristotle and Dante, no matter what. And the fact remains that they are always there too, to help me stand up after I've fallen.
Aristotle and Dante gave me the life I never knew I wanted.
And this makes me realize-
How could I have ever been ashamed of loving Aristotle and Dante?
Will You Give Ari and Dante a Chance?
© 2017 Daniela E