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Ari_DanteThis book was really, really good. And not at all what I expected. At all. At all. I really enjoyed the book, but the last thirty pages or so did not go where I thought they would. I thought about it for days afterwards because I was so surprised! [As a note on that, I find Ari’s dad’s logic at the end to be faulty. The facts of the situation do not have to lead to his conclusion. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean.]

Aristotle and Dante. Teenage loners with their own ways of looking at the world. Ari has a brother in prison and a dad in his own mental prison—he’s never been the same since he came back from Vietnam. From his parents, Ari learns not to talk: to keep everything he feels inside. And then there’s Dante. Dante talks about everything. Even/especially things most people don’t talk about.

And this is the story of them trying to figure out life. What is really important in life. How to relate to their parents. How to relate to girls. How to relate to each other. Especially after Dante decides he thinks he’s more interested in boys than in girls.

The author does a beautiful job of portraying teenagers grappling with—well, as he puts it, the secrets of the universe. One of the other things he does beautifully is tying in the weather. The settings of so many scenes are described in such a way that they often mirror the emotions of the characters, or form a contrast to them. It’s very well done, artistically speaking.

Other things I loved in this book:

  • Ari, about Dante: “There wasn’t anything mean about him. I didn’t understand how you could live in a mean world and not have any of that meanness rub off on you.”
  • “Through that telescope, the world was closer and larger than I’d ever imagined. And it was all so beautiful and overwhelming and—I don’t know—it made me aware that there was something inside of me that mattered.”
  • During a storm: “I wondered about the science of storms and how sometimes it seemed that a storm wanted to break the world and how the world refused to break.” I love this description.
  • “Somehow I’d hoped that this would be the summer that I would discover that I was alive.” Haunting.
  • “Scars. A sign that you had been hurt. A sign that you had healed. …Maybe we just lived between hurting and healing.”

Then, there’s this conversation between Ari and Dante:
Dante: “The funny thing is, I sometimes think my mother loves my father more than he loves her. Does that make sense?”
Ari: “Yeah, I guess so. Maybe. Is love a contest?”
Dante: “What does that mean?”
Ari: “Maybe everyone loves differently. Maybe that’s all that matters.”
I really resonated with this. Sometimes we perceive one person as loving more than another, and we can feel hurt because of it. But if we thought about it this way, maybe it would be different.
Another favorite moment: Ari: “Why does it matter so much?” Dante: “If it matters, then it matters.”
I like this because in high school (and some of college) I would beat myself up about why certain things mattered to me, and I wish they didn’t so I could just let go of them. I wish I’d had someone telling me that it was okay—if it matters to you, it matters. Good life lessons.