Parents' Guide to

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

By Sally Engelfried, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Literary story of two boys' life-changing friendship.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 6 parent reviews

age 11+

Wonderful for getting students to love reading.

Beautiful coming of age novel. A perfect addition for any child who is learning about healthy communication. The characters do not start off being open and honest, and throughout the novel they learn about how to speak openly. It is an engaging read that will get students to actually want to open a book. The dialogue is realistic in a way that most middle grade books are unable to capture.

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
age 15+

Beautiful coming of age

“She looked into my eyes. I wanted to look away. But I didn't. Her eyes were like the night sky in the desert. It felt like there was a whole world living inside her. I didn't know anything about that world." This book is a beautiful, honest portrayal of being sixteen. I loved it so much. It made me remember. Ari feels like his life is someone else's idea. His mom tells him he is in transition- this age, this stage in his life, he's living in an ecotone: an in-between world on the edge of two established ecosystems; boy and man. He feels like he is his mom's "case study"; people study him and are always trying to figure him out when he doesn't even understand himself. This is such a relatable story on many levels and I think this is an important book for teens. We all can relate to Ari and Dante’s confusion, pain, anger, excitement, drive, desire, searching for a way to understand yourself, and the world. Trying so hard to hold the confusion of the world inside you, and knowing when and how to express yourself. Feeling like your parents are aliens, your relatives are those “intimate strangers” that you keep at a comfortable distance. This book is insightful and beautifully simplistic, no fluff to distract from the message of youth, and accentuates the honesty. I think many 16 year olds will identify with the characters and their struggles. Ari is 16, unsure of who he is and if he even likes himself. Dante is optimistic and open. Ari and Dante are trying to navigate the world and figure out what they want from it and how they fit in it. We can all relate. Ari struggles with unhappiness and anger like many 16 year olds. He struggles to understand his parents and peers. He wants to be quiet and alone but then the quiet and alone feels lonely. A very relatable sentiment right now. This is a beautiful coming of age story. I will say this on content: You have to be careful when giving YA fiction to young adults. The YA demographic is age 11 and up but its content varies widely so you have to be careful when curating a YA library for an 11-year old. Maybe I’m getting old, or just struggling with what content is appropriate at what age, but I often don’t appreciate how YA authors add drinking or drug use, language, sexual content, violence that feels unnecessary to the story, it feels added for shock-value to interest teens, but this limits the audience. Having a 7th grade child, knowing children that age, and being responsible for purchasing literature for this age can be tricky. I personally don't think this book is appropriate for 7th graders as a whole, as the book states. This is subjective of course. Some parents and teachers choose not to sensor literature, and that is ok, but if you choose to be more careful with the content your tween/teenager reads it gets tricky. A story may be beautiful and important, but content may make it unavailable, which is unfortunate in some cases, this one in particular. This book is a tricky one for me – parents and teachers may want to read it first and make up their own mind as to if it is appropriate for the age they are buying for. I personally think this book is more appropriate for 9th or 10th grade/age 15 and up. This book (briefly) discusses doing heroin, sex, masturbation, drinking. Ari is plagued with bad dreams and realizes one night that when he drinks beer he doesn't have bad dreams. A classmate asks Ari if he wants to shoot up with him. Ari says no. He's curious about heroin but just isn't ready yet. Not to say that a conversation about these things can't happen at age 11 but the book being available to all 11 year olds may be assuming too much. Perhaps if parents know the content and read the book first, they can have a conversation with their child. If your child or student seems confused by their sexuality, or feelings of inadequacy, trouble fitting in with peers or family, etc, this may be a perfect and even necessary read for them. Lierature, as well as other art forms like music, has the amazing potential to help us identify with the world and feel less alone, see beauty in the world. which is a rare and beautiful thing when you are a teenager.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (6 ):
Kids say (52 ):

The distinctive first-person voice of Aristotle, both straightforward and poetic, perfectly captures the uncertainties of a teen boy who has long held himself aloof but might want to change that. Ari's frequent melancholy is balanced with a self-deprecating sense of humor and sharp observations, making him sympathetic and likable.

Although there are some exciting scenes, ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE focuses more on internal than external action. Because of this, the novel may not be for everyone; the more literary reader, however, will find Aristotle's journey into adulthood and self-acceptance engaging and moving.

Book Details

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