Set in the late 80’s, Saenz’ novel tells the story of the friendship between Aristotle (Ari) and Dante, two El Paso teens who feel lost in the world around them. Dante is sensitive, too sensitive, according to Ari; Ari keeps his feelings bottled up inside. Dante is extremely close to his parents; Ari can’t seem to figure his out, let alone get them to talk about his incarcerated brother. Dante goes to private school; Ari goes to public school. Yet, somehow, despite their differences, Ari and Dante develop a friendship that neither expected, and which neither can live without.
This one is a good read, if a little long. It’s a great coming-of-age story, and one that illustrates how friendships can change over time — sometimes without either friend realizing what’s going on. I only give it 3.5 stars because I found Dante a little hard to relate to — he was just a kind of out there for me. Ari I loved, though, and he’s the one who narrates the story. Give it a shot! Saenz is a very talented writer. He writes poetry, and that kind of style — saying a lot without using too many words — really stands out in this novel. Also, it’s won multiple awards, so other people think it deserves higher than 3.5!
Winner of the 2013 Pura Belpré Author Award
Winner of the 2013 Stonewall Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature
Winner of the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for LBGT Children’s/YA Literature
A 2013 Michael L. Printz Honor Book
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