Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison and a father who is closed off because he served in the Vietnam war. He meets Dante, an optimistic know-it-all who has a unique view of the world, who teaches Ari how to swim. They start to develop a friendship, the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. Through this friendship both Ari and Dante help each other learn about themselves and grow into the people they were always meant to be.
"Words were different when they lived inside of you."
This is my second documented time reading this book, but I have listened to the audiobook about five or six times since my first listen in June of 2016. It is still the placeholder for my favorite book, and it warms my heart while breaking it every single time. There is something about these characters, their experiences, and the writing that gets me every time I read it. I have yet to read this book without crying at least three times.
The characters are what I love the most about this book. We are in Ari's point of view through the whole book, and I absolutely love him. I relate a lot to him, in some of his thoughts about the world and about himself. I think he's really special, and although I also love Dante, I hold a soft spot in my heart for Ari. Dante's adorable, and I think he is such an amazing character. I hear in the sequel we are going to get some chapters (maybe all? I am not sure) in Dante's point of view, which I am excited about, because we see Dante through Ari's perspective, and I'd love to get to know Dante in a more personal way. Plus, I'd honestly love to see Ari through Dante's perspective.
"I bet you could sometimes find all the mysteries of the universe in someone's hand."
Both Dante and Ari's parents are such an important part of the story, which I love. I am all about stories where family is a main theme, because I don't think we see them enough, especially in young adult literature. I think that each of the parental characters hold such an importance to the story, and I loved how real they were. I felt the love they had for each other and for their children seeping through the pages. Both families are Mexican-American and although they do have a lot in common, I liked seeing the two differences between their lived experiences.
There isn't a lot of plot, it's a character driven book and honestly, I love books like this. I feel like some people need more plot/action but I am content with a book about two characters coming of age. We start the story when both Ari and Dante are about fifteen, and they're seventeen by the end of the book, so we see them grow and mature. There are definitely exciting things that happen in this book, and there are definitive character arcs, but if you're looking for a lot of adventure you're not going to get it here.
"There are worse things in the world than a boy who likes to kiss other boys."
There are LGBTQIA themes in this book, that are really important and so well done. I love that there is LGBTQIA representation for people of color that may really relate to Ari and Dante. There is something I picked up in this read through that I don't think I picked up in the past. If you're worried about spoilers, I would skip to when you see the yellow highlighted area. Okay, while reading this book this time around, I have come out as a biromantic demisexual, and so I am still coming to terms with what that means. I have been doing research and trying to read more books with asexual/demisexual characters, and Ari kind of read like an asexual character. I am not a hundred percent for sure saying he is on the asexual spectrum, but it definitely came off that way at times. He hated the idea of masturbation or sex, both ideas made him uncomfortable to think about, never mind talk about. I don't know if others saw that too, or if I am just reading into it, but either way I found it interesting. End of spoilers.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to everyone. I love the audiobook, because Lin-Manuel Miranda narrates it and he does an amazing job with it. Either way, book, e-book, audiobook, I cannot recommend it enough. I feel like this book is going to hit me every time I read it, and I am not mad about it, because I love it so much.