Book Review: August 2018

August is coming to a close, and we have September, patron month of transitions (so says me) to look forward to. I myself will be riding the wave of change–tomorrow is my first day of student teaching at a high school and grad school classes and coursework begins again. Yay? Maybe. We’ll see.

As the title suggests, I have a book review for you today! My goal for these reviews are for them to eventually get more structured and cohesive as I get in the routine of it. While grad school is still in session, my plan is to get one review up a month. One book a month…I’m fairly certain I can handle that. 🙂 This past week, I read a book that the incoming freshmen at my new school will be reading. My cooperative teacher/mentor gave it to me this past week to read before school begins and I was so engrossed in it that I read it in about three hours. What is this book, you ask? It is…

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

by Benjamin Alire Saenz

I could not put this book down. I tried, to get up and do the eating thing and the movement thing, but I couldn’t. Saenz’s writing feels simple yet manages to convey a beautiful, complex story. This is another YA novel written from the point-of-view of Aristotle (Ari) a Mexican-American teenager living in El Paso, Texas in this 1980s. Ari and Dante could not be more different from one another and I fell in love with them. There were so many moments when I paused while reading because I had just read something that made me go, “Wow.” One such quote was,

“Words were different when they lived inside of you.”

I mean, come on…and this is just one quote out of so so many. Have I gushed enough yet? No? Okay, here’s more. Aristotle and Dante are beautiful characters. They draw you in, are lovable, and so relatable. Ari is a great narrator and it was enjoyable (and sometimes painful) to grow with his character. I felt their aches, joys, pains, triumphs….basically the book had me feeling all the feels. Throughout the experience I smiled and cried–both out of joy and sadness. Also, I have to put in a note about the parents in this story…um, can they please be real? Without giving away anything, I will say this–Ari and Dante are not the only characters whose growth you see throughout the course of this story.

Obviously, I whole-heartedly recommend this novel and I am excited to experience it again with my new students. I am looking forward to their thoughts on it! This is a fairly quick read and is a great book for anyone looking for a moving coming-of-age story that explores many facets of identity (racial, ethnic, sexual) and relationships. In my ELA curriculum in high school there was no mention of homosexuality, let alone a book with gay characters. I am so excited for my new students who get to read something great that I didn’t get to when I was their age. 1.) Representation matters. 2.) Read this book. Please.

Have a great week, and keep reading!

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