Bibliomancy For Beginners, Books, YA (Young Adult)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamen Alire Saenz: Bibliomancy for Beginners Book Club Discussion

The Bibliomancers almost got together to talk about a book.  Some of us read it.  We are here to talk about it through text today!

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Page #: 359
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

We are going to start out by stating our overall feelings for the book and whether or not we recommend it:

M: Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It was a quick light read that was entertaining, which was something I quite enjoyed after reading dense texts for class (Damn you Melville!)The characters seemed realistic and multifaceted.  The plot while slightly predictable at times was paced properly and interesting enough to keep me engaged.  It has a great cover which makes me slightly sad I borrowed it from the library rather than buying it to place on my shelves for good.  Perhaps I will buy it one day to add to my collection.  I think this book is a good example of its genre.  The language and plot weren’t particularly challenging though it has a male protagonist which is rare in young adult let alone contemporary.

I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary young adult fiction or for someone who wants a quick warm hearted book that doesn’t take too much brain power.

T: I’d agree with the above stated. A quick read, but in no way shallow. Saenz fills it with simple but gorgeous prose that will break your heart more than once. He approaches the end the end of childhood with the honesty, charm, and even melancholy it deserves. I’ve only seen it done better by Ray Bradbury in works such as “Dandelion Wine,” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” and anyone who has listened to me talk about Bradbury knows how high praise that is coming from me. 

Since this is a pseudo-bibliomancy post I am going to say that there will be spoilers below this point.


M: There were three things that I particularly enjoyed about this text.

The first being that the protagonist was a gay person of color.  There are a number of texts that have characters that are gay but it is rare to have the main character be gay, at least in young adult.  The only other text I can think of is Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levathan.  The fact that this book also represented a different ethnic and socioeconomic group than most ya books was great as well.  I get tired of reading about the depressed privileged white girl who falls in love with the unlikely male lead.  A different point of view was refreshing and perhaps made me appreciate the book more than I would have if the protagonist was just another girl.

T: Christ on a bike, if we had a constantly-whining lead, regardless of gender, I would have gouged my eyes out with a spoon and been glad for it. I so rarely dare read YA novels for just that reason (well, a lot of reasons): I’m running out of eyes. It was refreshing having a character who kept there existential crises and ennui to an interesting, minimal amount. Yes, there’s a fair bit of emotional turmoil, that’s what high school is about, but Saenz doesn’t devote page after page to it. This is because he can actually write, and doesn’t need to draw out generic angst in an attempt to make the reader sympathize with Aristotle.

The second thing I enjoyed about this book happens to be the last twenty pages or so.  Taylor and I both agreed that it was kind of silly in an entertaining way that Ari’s parents sat him down to explain to him that he was gay and that it was okay.  Reading from his point of view I found it weird that he never seemed to think that was a possibility in himself, even after Dante came out as someone gay.  It was a light-hearted way to make it clear to Ari that his parents were okay with him being himself.  If a young questioning person were to read that they would be able to see that yes it is hard, because some characters were punished for their sexual orientation, however there were still people who cared for them and were completely fine with it.

T: Heymitch here isn’t quite capturing this scene because she’s actually explaining things, whereas I get to leech off of her content. Basically it went like this:

Parental Unit: Ari, we need to have a talk.

Ari: what is i-

Parental Unit: You’re gay.

Ari: Whaaa?

Parental Unit: Not a discussion, we’re smarter than you. Now go make out with that Dante dude.

Ari: Ok, I guess I’ll go do that.


The last thing I loved about this book, was the fact that things I mentioned earlier were not the main point of this book.  Ari finding out he was gay or Ari being Mexacan-American were not the main points of this text.  It was simply a coming of age novel.  A text about someone growing up.  There wasn’t a particular emphasis on either side for Ari.  The text was looking at what it feels like to grow up.  Anyone can relate to that.  Even me, a privileged white girl.  I am supposed to buy into those other cookie cutter texts, with their bland anonymous girls and tall dark and handsome men, however I related with this text as well if not better than I did with many of the other contemporaries I have read.  It helps show that everyone can feel small or scared or confused or angry.  The protagonist doesn’t need to be a blank mirror on which we reflect ourselves, they can be full bodied and still connect to the reader on an emotional level.  The inclusion of different statuses brings life to the book, but the focus on the experiences and emotions helps the reader understand the life within the pages.

T: I addressed this in my introductory statement, so I won’t go over it again.

If you would like to add to the discussion feel free to comment below on this post, or like Gretchen make your own blog post and send me the link so that I can see your thoughts.

Bibliomancy for Beginners will be back at the end of the semester for our summer long weekly episodes.  The first month are the Bibliomancers picks for best books everyone should read, so be sure to look out for that.  (The first one is my personal choice: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey).

If you would like to know which books we will be reading or when our episodes are meant to air then you should check out my Bibliomancy page here.  I will also tweet with the links to watch live or if there are any changes to the schedule so be sure to follow @piedpipercalls on twitter.

T: Oh yeah, summer reading’s gonna be great. I’ve got some cool things picked out, and Michaela tends to do pretty well herself I guess. 

If you can’t wait for a new episode you can go back and watch one of our old ones here.

That will be all for me today, I hope you enjoy!’



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