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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Narrated by: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Length: 7 hrs and 29 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (5,721 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

Critic Reviews

“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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  • Rain
  • STILLWATER, MN, United States
  • 10-27-13

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.

38 of 41 people found this review helpful

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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!

43 of 47 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathleen
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 09-05-13

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 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Amy
  • JOSHUA, TX, United States
  • 03-02-14

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.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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One of the most touching books I've listened to

Would you listen to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe again? Why?

Ari and Dante are two of the most heartbreaking, vivid and lovable characters I've come across in a long time. Their story, one of identity and family, was so beautiful and sincere, I wished I could spend forever in late 1980's El Paso with Ari, Dante, and their incredible families.

What other book might you compare Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe to and why?

Perhaps Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie?

Have you listened to any of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Lin-Manuel Miranda's performance was wonderful and perfect for this book (it was particularly funny when to hear his read in Ari's voice that he doesn't want to study Alexander Hamilton). I hope to hear other stories read by Miranda.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me laugh AND cry. It made me want to hug all the characters.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Lighthearted Teenage Humor Meets Existential Angst

This book came out in 2013, and while it was a big YA award winner, it just started showing up on my radar this year. Which makes sense, because YOU GUYS the audiobook is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda! (You know — that guy who wrote a bananas popular musical about the Schuyler sisters and some other people.)

Ari is a Mexican American teenager who likes to keep to himself. Until he meets Dante, a bubbly teen who's new in town and volunteers to give Ari swimming lessons. Dante's infectious charm wins over a sullen Ari, but after one of them is injured, their friendship grows deeper and more complicated.

Aristotle and Dante is the kind of book that wraps you all over in tingly goosebumps and makes the hair on your arms stand up straight. It’s about kissing, boys who like boys, and two Latino teenagers who are learning to be OK with their feelings and desires. It's also about parents, PTSD, and family secrets. And it's about figuring out how to open up to the people who matter to you most.

As narrator, Lin-Manuel Miranda finds the perfect balance between lighthearted teenage humor and existential angst, and his kissing scenes are 100. (It was also really nice to hear a Latino narrator on a story about two Mexican American teens.)

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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beautiful

This book is amazing and the acting is glorious. The story is sad and beautiful. It's officially one of my favorite books.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Why not 5 stars?

The book is definitely worth reading! I just had to hold off on a star... maybe even should have been 2.

** spoiler alerts **


I liked the idea of Ari just being a wonderful ally to the LGB community. That would have been a MUCH stronger message of acceptance and friendship despite orientation...

The ending, although sweet and ideal, is also not realistic at all. Especially the part where four Catholic Latino parents happily push a boy out of the closet. It is just not a scenario LGB YAs reading this book should internalize and expect when coming out. Even worse, it does not encourage hetero kids to save/defend their peers when they are in danger / bullied. Ari’s parents even say that he saved Dante’s life because he was in love with him...?

Also, if I had not heard this being narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda who despite his tone adds to the story, the dialogue would have annoyed me. The use of ”he said” and “I said” was a bit much!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Lis
  • 09-14-17

Most wondeful story I've read this year

What did you like most about Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe?

I loved everything about this book, I honestly cannot narrow it down to one thing. It all just worked perfectly.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I loved both Ari and Dante though I think we got to know Ari a little better, he was perhaps the more complicated of the two.

Which character – as performed by Lin-Manuel Miranda – was your favourite?

Lin-Manuel Miranda perfectly got Ari's voice in my opinion. Obviously a lot of the book is from Ari's pov so it was probably this which helped. I thought he was perfect for the narrator and it definitely added more depth to the book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Hannah
  • 07-18-16

HOLY !!!!!!

I initially only got this to listen to Lin read but ended up falling in love with this book. I haven't been this emo since Harry Potter

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Elhana
  • 05-04-14

Beautiful Story, So-So Reading

Would you listen to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe again? Why?

Yes. The story flows easily, with good humour and raw, meaningful sections that you'd want to listen over and over again.

What other book might you compare Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe to, and why?

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
"The Silver Linings Playbook"

Feel-good books that end well.

Did Lin-Manuel Miranda do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?

I don't think so. He tries really hard to make Dante sound different from Ari, but Dante just sounds like an unattractive, nerdy kid, which isn't totally Dante (since we know that he is beautiful and sophisticated). I know Dante is supposed to have a nasal voice at the beginning because of his allergy, but Benjamin clearly signifies that his allergy is over by that first summer. Plus, Lin-Manuel Miranda doesn't seem to have read and practised the reading beforehand because he mistakes the voice of the characters sometimes.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me laugh and cry. Brilliant.

Any additional comments?

I don't think that Lin-Manuel Miranda's narration is ideal. However, this audiobook is worth buying because the story is worth listening to.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-18-19

great

I can't stop thinking about it. the ending was great and satisfying but I want mooooore.

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  • Sian Venables
  • 05-09-19

Left me feeling soft and hopeful.

How a book manages to feel so simple and simultaneously be anything but simple, is beyond me, but that's just what this book is! It's not everyone's story, not even close, yet the story and its characters are so broad I think everyone will relate to one part or person at some point.

Lin reads beautifully (unsurprisingly.)

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  • Caro
  • 05-08-19

Perfect

I loved the story and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s narration is just beautiful. A perfect book.

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  • Prof
  • 05-01-19

Coming of age love story

Well, finished this today and had a tear n my eye. Beautifully written tale of two friends who meet and one wants their friendship to be something more. How lovely to have a novel where parents are lovely! Narration is great for the lead character but it was occasionally difficult to determine the differences in characters. But that’s being picky. Loved it, recommended without hesitation

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  • Thefangirldaylighter
  • 03-27-19

A beautiful voice for a beautiful story

The story of Ari and Dante is probably one of my favorite stories of all time, and I have lost the count on how many times I have read this book. So when I then heard the Lin Manuel Miranda (one of my favorite beings of all time, with the most calming and satisfying voice ever) has narrated this book, I knew that I had to listen to this audio book. And let me tell you, it met all my expectations - and I was very satisfied.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-16-19

More than just YA

I have never really been a fan of YA novels. They are either too over exaggerated or superficial and there is ALWAYS way too much focus on the /romance/. However, Aristotle and Dante completely changed my opinion, this book is so much more than the 'awe he's so dreamy' vibe most YA's give off. Aside from the obvious 'am I gay?' question that pops up now and again, the book also discusses themes such as national identity, and childhood versus adulthood. As a person who has struggled with nationality myself, this book hits home like most books don't; I strongly recommend Aristotle and Dante to anyone who is either bilingual or binational, the 'who am I, and does where I come from affect that' question is addressed if not answered.
Overall this was a great read--with an amazing narrator--but I must admit, if you are looking for something cliché or verbally challenging this book is not for you.

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  • Peter M.
  • 02-05-19

Heart warming

Beautifully written and narrated.
A reminder of the power of good literature and the power of friendship and of family and especially the power of love.

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  • Nicola
  • 03-06-16

This book broke my heart.

This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Charming and tenderly written.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-31-19

100% Loved it!

I loved this story so much! It's such a beautiful love story. My heart is so full right now!

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  • Veronika Leigh
  • 05-07-19

I'm in Love

I'm in love with the Secrets of Dante and Aristotle's Universe. It's so beautifully written. At times I knew what was coming, and at times 'he said' 'he said' became a bit annoying, but the story is superb. You feel for these boys. They grow, and you grow with them. A wonderful coming-of-age tale.

I feel like a better person by reading it and growing with them. What a pleasure to read.

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  • Benjamin Cruse
  • 11-12-18

Beautiful story!

Overall it was a great, beautiful story. There were moments where it was slow-placed and I was struggling to finish. But you just have to bear with it, the end is worth it. There were moments were the writing spoke to me. I also enjoyed the reading performance by Miranda. Highly recommend.

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  • Chris Regan
  • 09-17-18

Such a beautiful book

Man, this is a beautiful book. It has this really natural, really magical flow to the language that makes it a real joy to read, or in this case listen to. It's just beautiful. (I promise that's the last time I'll use that word).

I first read this almost three years ago... I could have sworn it was only a few months, that's how much of an impact it had on me. At any rate I felt enough time had passed that I could revisit without there being much chance of losing that feeling I had originally.

This time around I wanted to experience it in a slightly different way, so I bought the audiobook version read by Lin Manuel Miranda. It's like experiencing the book for the first time all over again.

Miranda gives life to each character, there's a very distinct voice for Dante, for Ari's Dad, for everyone. He never goes overboard with the emotions, he is very controlled, allowing the listener to take away their own interpretations without feeling overwhelmed.

It's thanks to his reading that I was at times smiling like a goof and holding back tears while sitting on a packed tram, travelling through the city. Everything else fell away, it was just me and Lin with Ari and Dante.

I love this book even more the second time around.

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  • Hannah Robinson
  • 08-28-18

Amazing

How can I explain how amazing this book is? The most thoughtful, beautiful representation I’ve read in a very long time. To be read by Lin Manuel Miranda is just next level perfection.

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  • annemaree
  • 07-29-18

wonderful and insightful

i didnt know what to expect but i just loved it. thr characters were great

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-11-18

Loved the story and Lin's narration

My friend has been telling me to read this for ages and now I have. Why didn't I read it sooner?? I loved it some much and am sad that it has finished

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  • Kialynne
  • 08-31-17

Just listen.

This recording makes an important and heart wrenching (but positive) book an insanely real experience.

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  • Jennifer Hamilton
  • 07-07-17

So full of emotion

I fell in love with the characters and their vulnerabilities. I fell in love with the fluid writing. I fell in love with the voice that helped bring this story to my ears.

I hadn't read anything about this book and only chose it because of the title and because it had won some awards, so I had no idea what it was really about. I found myself making excuses to drive just so I could listen (it's my listening time). Wow. I've just finished it on my back porch as I had to finish it and I'm left with a feeling of rawness, hope, compassion, and love.

Love is all that matters.