Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Out Now from Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers; 528 pages
Content Warnings: Death/dying, grief, homophobia, people dying of HIV/AIDS, sexual content, strong language, violence, fighting, PTSD, suicide, drugs, transphobia, misogyny
About the Author: “Benjamin Alire Sáenz is an author of poetry and prose for adults and teens. He was the first Hispanic winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and a recipient of 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 Belpré 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 lives in El Paso, Texas.” (Bio taken from the publisher’s website)
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Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World follows Aristotle and Dante as they discover their place in the universe. Aristotle is faced with the struggles of bullies, making friends, and figuring out what he wants his future to look like. The upside is that he is finally with clever and beautiful Dante who shows him feelings he has never felt before. Suddenly, Aristotle is faced with a tragic loss, and he is forced to fight even harder to create the life that he wants.
Just like so many other fans, I was beyond excited to read the sequel to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Sadly, I was let down by Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World. In the first novel, the writing was lyrical and intriguing; Aristotle was emotional, unsure of himself, and slightly angsty—just as most teenagers are. Though he was complex and at times a little unrealistic, he was a lovable and emotionally complex character trying to discover himself. As I plunged into the new novel, I quickly realized that it was not comparable to the first book. Aristotle is overly theatrical, misogynistic, and he no longer sounds at all like a seventeen-year-old. The sequel loses the first book’s unique style of conversation and witty banter; everyone is suddenly a melodramatic philosopher, delivering extremely opinionated lectures that end in tears. The plot itself is uninspired; it lacks the symbolism and depth from the first novel. I think Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe would have been better as a standalone. If you are able to pick through the prolonged monologues, unimaginative plot, and unrealistic conversation, this book is mediocre and disappointing.
(Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing us with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.)
PRR Writer, Frances Drye