Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World
By Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Genre: Young Adult/Realistic Fiction
QUILTBAG Main Character: Yes
QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes
Main Character of Color: Yes
Bechdel Test: Yes
Summary: Ari and Dante have finally admitted their romantic attraction to each other; now they just have to find out what that means. Set immediately after Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, this book follows Ari and Dante as they navigate their last year of high school during the height of the AIDS epidemic. With new friends and old wounds reopening, can they maintain the delicate universe they’ve built together?
A Little Bit of a Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The fact that this was an ARC in no way changes my review or how I felt about the book.
Let’s Get A Little Deep:
You know those moments in movies and TV shows when a character breaks down? They always manage to do so beautifully, without the blotchy face and red eyes that so often come from crying. That’s not me, folks. I’m an ugly crier. I am not ashamed to admit this, nor am I ashamed of being the kind of person who gross sobs over a book. But even for me, this book was a big tear-jerker.
I adored Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World just as much as I enjoyed reading the original. Picking up almost directly after the first one ended, A&DDITWOTW takes us deep into the emotional sea of these characters. Weaving in the history of the AIDS epidemic with a coming of age story, Ari feels equal parts modern and also of his time. It is a joy to be inside his head as he navigates the ocean he finds himself in.
What absolutely makes this a five-star read for me, however, is how the novel focuses on people’s ability to change. Ari does so much growing in this story, as do those around him. As he sheds the parts of himself that no longer serve him and builds up those that do, Ari is able to become a more real version of himself. His example helps others do the same as he picks up more friends and deepens relationships that already exist.
It is not just that Ari can change, it is that he wants to. That willingness to change and to do so for the better is not present in every single character here. We see in many of the minor characters how stubbornness, self-hate, and anger block any real change, particularly change for the better. When we let go of fear, when we embrace love of others and the self as we see Ari do, we are able to find a version of ourselves that exceeds our wildest dreams, that is able to do things we would never have thought possible.
Out this October, Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World is the heartfelt and honest story of change that the world could use now and probably thirty years ago, too. I’m so excited for all of you to get a chance to see these characters learn and grow, so why not preorder it now from your favorite indie bookstore?
Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World? Leave a comment telling me your favorite 80’s song. You can also find me on Instagram @booked.with.grace and on Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@ynbushehri) for editing my posts.