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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Written by: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Narrated by: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Length: 7 hrs and 29 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (125 ratings)

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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.

©2013 Benjamin Alire Saenz (P)2013 Simon & Schuster Audio

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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

This book was beautiful!

I don't take the time to write reviews but felt the need to for this one. I want to start it over and listen again immediately. It was great and the narration was wonderful. Glad I listened to it opposed to reading it. Highly recommend!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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loved it - not what I would normally listen to!

Such a great listen. Raising two boys I loved this look into the mind of these two boys.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

AMAZING

I have loved this book for years. I found it by chance a while ago. I'd read it but with my free time becoming scarce I decided to check out the audiobook. When I saw who narrated it I knew I had to listen to it. BEST DECISION!!!! Lin did SUCH AN AMAZING FANTASTIC job!! he made it so easy to fall back in love with these boys and their families and their stories all over again!! and hearing the Spanish stuff pronounced properly added a nice level to it I never could!!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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a book I've never connected with more

While my book discography isn't high, what I can say is that I've never connected to a main character more than I have with this book.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great book, great reader!

Having read the book once (or twice) before, I knew what I was getting into before purchasing the audiobook. It's a great story with character that you genuinely feel for, and the insight from Ari makes it easy to relate to his emotions.
Lin Manuel Miranda does a fantastic job distinguishing the voices of the characters and building a personality for each one through his voice. Because the book is written from the perspective of one of the characters, it really lends itself to being performed this way, and it shines!
Overall fantastic, and I can't wait to see what else this author writes!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Wonderful Book

Excellently narrated, great coming off age story. Will definitely read with my high school students.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A magical lush hot summer read

I admit I read this once before in print, but it was only when I went back on audio to truly understand the story. It’s rare to have a time this soft, lush and loving when presenting two male leads.

There’s something magical and loving in the way the author writes his books that’s present in his other newer work. Perhaps more fiction that reality but nonetheless a great read and strong characters.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Loved it.

This book was the most touching thing I have ever read (listened to). Love is love. Why feel ashamed to love.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Oh, the humanity

Kind, generous, loving, funny, knowing - both the story and the performance. A great book no matter what your age.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Me: a closeted bisexual pseudo only child

This book was made for me and I cried and it was FUCKING AMAZING. Amazing.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • jennifer
  • 2018-06-30

I feel like I just didn’t get what others got from this

I listened to this and expected to be really enthralled. Unfortunately, I was more annoyed much of the time. I felt like the primary character was an pretty negative person and I got impatient with his complaints and actions. Perhaps I just don’t know what it’s like to be a teenage boy, but I felt unsatisfied at the end of this read.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rain
  • 2013-10-27

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.

42 of 46 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tams (TTC Books and more)
  • 2014-10-03

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!

46 of 51 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Maggie
  • 2019-03-19

Touching but trite

You know what’s going to happen from the moment Ari and Dante meet. The language is clunky and Ari’s teenage brooding does get old fast. Overall there are no surprises, which I think is disappointing in a book.

All the same, this strikes me as a story that would mean a lot to a young person going through a similar coming-of-age struggle. It is a sweet story with no real villains. There is a lot of young adult literature that appeals even to an adult audience, but I don’t think this book makes the cut. If you are 12-18 years old and wrestling with identity, this book might really speak to you. Otherwise, the uninspired prose and unoriginal narration may drag.

Still, we need stories like these, about kids coming into their sexual and cultural identities. We need families of color portrayed as multifaceted and complex and loving. I wish it was written a little better, but in the end this book does no harm.

Lin Manuel Miranda does a good job with the material he’s given. But the dialogue is really odd and the sentences are choppy and excessive (sometimes it feels like, “My mom left the kitchen to get my dad. My parents came back into the kitchen. They sat down at the table.”)

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kathleen
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 2013-09-05

A brilliant gem in a sea of mediocrity

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

It's a heartwarming, heart-wrenching, sweet, sad, laugh-out-loud funny, coming-of-age story so deftly told by Mr. Saenz. A better narrator, Mr. Miranda, could not have been chosen. This book will stay with me for the rest of my life. I will never look at teens the same.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Both the main characters and their parents were special beyond words.

Which scene was your favorite?

The entire book was fabulous, even though I think I went through a box of Kleenex.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I don't have time to listen to any audio book in one sitting. I mostly listened to this one in my car and on my long bike rides, as I do all my audio books. Very satisfactory.

Any additional comments?

I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. To teens and young adults, to parents, to fans of the mm genre... to just about anyone. Oh how I loved it!

28 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amy
  • JOSHUA, TX, United States
  • 2014-03-02

An Experience Worthy of the Title

There really aren't adequate words for me to describe all the ways I enjoyed being along for the ride with ARI & DANTE. This Coming-of-Age novel is so full, even the silence speaks.

There is never a doubt that these two boys needed to find each other. Their own special baggage is exactly what is required for them to connect, question and work through things. It may be as comical as their Mexican-ness or lack of to grief over their missing pieces. As in most Coming-of-Age novels, they need to learn to be OK with who they are and reconcile what kind of person they want to be. Their journey takes you through all the FEELS, laughing to frustration to tears. It isn't easy, but they get there. I appreciate the fact that in the end they had each other all the way, plus a pair of wonderful parents for support. The lesson I walked away with is learning to be UNASHAMED with who you are.

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA was phenomenal. He had the perfect blend of age, unease and bravado that could take you through the rage, snark, laughs and the range of emotions of teen boys. Ari had more bravado and Dante had more excitable wonder. He also captured both sets of parents, their calm, love and specific personalities. SAENZ & MIRANDA served up an experience that won't be forgotten.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • S. Mills
  • 2018-05-24

Great narration

Lin Manuel is fantastic. His narration is superb. I didn't love the story. I didn't believe the resolution. Can't say more without spoiling it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Jme Shan
  • Las Vegas
  • 2018-05-09

Great Narration

I listened to this book because it was dubbed a “Coming of Age” story. It was just “okay” for me. Although, I think the book was good... well written, heartfelt, likable characters, and engaging. Maybe I missed the review that said this was a YA book, I suppose I just like something a bit more intellectual and spanned out over a longer period of time (such as a Coming of Age novel like “Angela’s Ashes” or “The Hearts Invisible Furies”). But, I have to admit, I LOVED the narration! Bonus for me! I didn’t realize who I was listening to until the credits of the Audiobook rolled at the end. Lin-Manual Miranda earned this book an extra star from this listener. I’m a huge fan of his and he did wonderfully, as one would expect! (I sure hope he plans to do more narrations than the couple he has available.) PS: If you liked this story line and your are looking for something a bit deeper and longer, a must read is “The Hearts Invisible Furies” by John Boyne.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Chantal Noordeloos
  • The Netherlands
  • 2018-09-13

Interesting coming of age story

Though I love the subject matter, and the writing was pretty decent, the book didn’t blow me away. It failed to submerge me in the story. It wasn’t a bad book, though. Definitely interesting

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Rena
  • 2018-08-02

just not for me

I am not into contemporary books (mostly), but Lin Manuel Miranda and the good things I heard about the story swayed me.
it wasn't bad, but the story was too slow and I disliked one of the main characters.

Dispite that I loved the way it represented LGBTQ+ themes and the latino Family vibes.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Friot Clara
  • 2018-07-29

Amazing performance and great book !

Everybody should read this book. It's categorized as YA but I don't believe it should only be in that category. If you're a parent or if you have parents or if you're an angry smart ads teenager, give this book a try. You might fall in love.

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  • Courson
  • 2017-10-18

I loved it

A beautiful story with really lovable characters. I loved it a lot and it really touched me. Plus Lin Manuel Miranda is a really great story teller.