Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

  • by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • Narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • 7 hrs and 29 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.
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.

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What the Critics Say

“Benjamin Alire Saenz is a writer with a sidewinder punch. Spare sentences connect resonant moments, and then he knocks you down with emotional truth. The story of Ari and Dante’s friendship widens and twists like a river, revealing truths about how hard love is, how family supports us, and how painfully deep you have to go to uncover an authentic self." (Judy Blundell, National Book Award-winning author of What I Saw and How I Lied)
"This book took my breath away. What gorgeous writing, and what a story! I loved both these boys. And their parents! Don't we all wish we had parents like theirs? The ending - and the way it unfolded - was so satisfying. I could go on and on...suffice it to say I will be highly recommending it to one and all. I'm sure I'll reread it myself at some point. I hated having it end." (James Howe, author of Addie on the Inside)
"I’m absolutely blown away. This is Saenz's best work by far.... It’s a beautiful story, so beautifully told and so psychologically acute! Both Ari and Dante are simply great characters who will live on in my memory. Everything about the book is absolutely pitch perfect.... It’s already my favorite book of the year!" (Michael Cart, Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

One of the best novels I've listened to in years.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I think what moves me is just all of the small subtle moments between Ari and Dante that moved me; you can feel how they feel for each other in each interaction and conversation, and you can see how each of them grows after each interaction.
I also really love those big moments.. hearing them.... when Ari got hurt... and when Dante got hurt, and Ari's reaction to it. All of those moments were just beautiful to listen to.


Any additional comments?

This story is beautiful, simplistic (in a wonderful way,) and touching. The relationship between these two boys is so moving and powerful because it is not obvious and in your face; instead, it's subtle and gradual how we change one another in any relationship, how we grow and transform throughout a relationship and how we are never the same in the end.

You know soon into the story how things will turn out, but you still keep listening to hear because it is so beautifully written, and you fall in love with the characters while dreaming that you had such a friendship.

I don't usually listen to audiobooks for long periods of time. Usually I listen to one for 20 minutes each night before I fall asleep, but this one kept me awake long long into the night, and now here I sit on a Sunday afternoon having not moved for the last 4 hours just so I can finish this book because I was so enthralled that I couldn't do anything until I finished experiencing this story.

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- Amazon Customer

One of the best books I've listened to all year!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Oh hell yes! It's everything you want in a book. Engaging, intriguing, well written and well told by the narrator.


Who was your favorite character and why?

Ari. With the story being told from his POV you really got to take the journey through his eyes, I loved his confusion and his convictions.


What does Lin-Manuel Miranda bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Ari's anger and Dante's flamboyance.


Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Both! There were a couple times I teared up a little bit. I had a big smile on my face at the end though.


Any additional comments?

Aristotle is a loner, but he’s not lonely. He’s played sports and joined clubs but he has never really had any friends, because he has never felt like he was a part of the normal teenage world. His mom is a teacher, his father is a Vietnam vet who keeps his thoughts to himself and his brother is in prison. It’s just another of many things his parents don’t talk about, his brother or why he isn’t a part of their lives. With summer break looming, Ari’s mom encourages him to make friends, and that is when he meets Dante at the local pool.

Dante is smart, open minded, out spoken and over bearing... pretty much everything that Ari is not. As unlikely as the pair seem, they bond and become best friends. Dante’s mom is a Therapist and his dad is a Professor so his smarts come naturally, but he loves to read, swim and is a poet at heart. The two quickly become inseparable to spite the fact that sometimes Ari finds Dante insufferable. Ari even steps in front of a moving car to save Dante, who was trying to save a broken winged bird at the time.

What was supposed to be a fun summer spent together at the pool and discovering the secret of life, is now spent with Ari recouping from the accident. And then summer is over, Dante is in Chicago with his parents for the school year, and Ari is angry. He is angry at Dante for trying to save that stupid bird. He is angry at himself for getting hurt. He is angry at his parents for not talking to him, and for never talking about his brother. Most of all, he doesn’t even know why he is really angry, if he is truly so angry at all.

Things change a lot over the next couple years, for both Ari and Dante. Dante explores a variety of vices including pot and alcohol, girls and boys, finally deciding he’d rather kiss boys than kiss girls. Ari gets to know his parents, himself and the illusion of his big brother. And then the unthinkable happens, Dante is hurt in an act of violence that sends Ari on a downward spiral that could end with him in the same place as his beloved big brother.
Wow, just wow. This story really made me think. I found myself rewinding several times to go back and listen to Ari’s thoughts again, make sure I was hearing them the way they were meant to be heard. Truly a story about two young men’s journey of self awareness in a big city Texas town in an era where being gay was still considered taboo, and frowned upon, to the extent that violence was generally overlooked. But not by Ari who knows Dante better than anyone else, even if it takes almost losing him to finally see it himself.

I’ve never listened to or read another story quite like this one. Told from Ari’s POV, you are traversing these two years in time inside his mind, seeing through his eyes, feeling what and how he felt. But Saenz made sure that Dante’s unique perspective on things always shined through as well. Dante was pretty much an open book, what you saw was what you got. Ari though, he was like an onion, you had to slowly peel back the layers to reveal what was on the inside. He came across as angry sometimes, when in actuality he was hurt or confused. At one point he finally admits that he was looking for Dante before he even knew it.

Whether it was their sometimes awkward but always intriguing conversations, letters exchanged while Dante was away in Chicago, or a real time relay of events as they were happening described by Ari, the relationship between these two completely fascinated me. Dante knew he loved Ari long before the feelings were reciprocated, but I don’t think even Dante knew he was IN love with Ari at first. The way their relationship unfolded, becoming and staying best friends for years before anything else was very fresh, innocent and endearing.

If you’re looking for just another sexy book from the LGBT genre, you won’t find that here. What you will find is a wonderfully written story about two young men that are looking for something, anything, discovering secrets about their lives, their futures and their pasts while forging an unbreakable bond of love and friendship. And the narrator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, has a voice that matches the story perfectly. Fresh, new and youthful. This is one of the best books I’ve listened to all year. I seriously lost time while I was listening I was so engrossed in the story.

If you are a fan of authors like Mia Kerick and Geoff Laughton, both from Harmony Ink, then this book should be added to your TBR list!

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- Tams (TTC Books and more)

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-09-2013
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio