Rec: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

This book is deceptively simple, its language plays no games and has no curls. And it works. I was not only unable to stop reading but at the edge of my seat. I loved pretty much every single character and that could feel like a bit much but well, some people are just lucky, why not? I had some issues with the Spanish. Mascoto? And stuff like 'di me' but I'm guessing that just proves that people who speak but are not educated in a language don't write it that well (It's 'mascota', no matter the gender of the pet), USA's English Only policies are only going to make the situation worse so I guess props for trying (or props for reproducing reality, in which languages survive even if they look a bit ragged). Speaking of which, I would have liked to see more about their issues regarding their Mexican origins, it seemed like something that should have been resolved somehow (pretty much everything else was and I liked the ending but it also felt a bit sudden. Of course, I didn't want it to end...) Misgivings aside, the TENSION here is masterful. In a story in which very little happens, Aristotle's inner narrative just managed to capture my attention with its hints of something elses. I like how Ari, despite all this reflection, doesn't seem to be able to understand either others or himself well enough and his words and actions keep getting ahead of him. He is a believable protagonist that is both curious and completely oblivious because he keeps asking the wrong questions. Second read: Ugh, THIS BOOK. I liked it more the second time around, which is rare for me--I don't give many books the honour of a second go, though-- but I found the ending sudden last time and this time it made sense, it was the peak of a slow build up that just HAD to happen. I'm DYING for the sequel. Going from 4 to 5 starts.

*spoilers*

JFYI, there's several homophobic crimes within the book and it's been pointed out to me that one of them in particular, the killing of a prostitute that turns out to be a transvestite by Bernardo--Ari's older brother-- can be read as a cliched narrative. There's not indication that the person killed is transgender, though, and although men who crossdress are a higher risk for violence, not all of them are gay, and neither are male prostitutes. It's a homophobic crime anyway because that's what freaks out Bernardo but I think it becomes even clearer that the killing is about Bernardo himself when he murders someone else in prison. I don't know, it's an interpretation and I do get other people will be more sensitive to the issue but, at worst, I think it might be accused of being a bit unoriginal. The parallels with the attack on Dante himself are quite obvious--we only find out about it after one of our main characters almost died in a similar incident--and Alire's intention that we sympathize with the victim without pitying them seems pretty clear. Ari himself is furious at Dante's attackers and heartbroken by Dante's pain, but he's mostly impressed by his friend's bravery in the face of unspeakable hatred. *spoilers*

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