Marissa Secreto ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Back in 2012, author Benjamin Alire Saenz released arguably his most famous novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. The book went on to claim critical success, winning twenty-seven awards including the ALA Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book. Now, four years later, a much-anticipated sequel is in the works. Saenz announced on his Twitter that he would be writing the sequel, which he claims will be titled There Will Be Other Summers. It will pick up where the first novel left off, continuing the story of Aristotle and Dante. With this sequel coming soon, it seems like the right time now to either read for the first time or revisit this critically acclaimed novel.
The first novel takes place in the 1980s through the perspective of teenage Mexican-American boy, Aristotle Mendoza. Aristotle is lonely, miserable, and pessimistic, with no idea how he is going to spend his summer. However, in an encounter at the local swimming pool, life changes drastically for him. Aristotle meets Dante Quintana, a boy who shares the same heritage and age as Aristotle but has a much more optimistic and carefree view of life. Over the course of the summer, the two boys become fast friends and, as they grow, they both learn new things both about themselves and the world around them.
Aristotle and Dante is packed with diversity and attempts to take on questions adolescents have about self-identity. Both Aristotle and Dante struggle with their cultural and racial upbringing, along with their own sexual orientations in a time when deviation may not have been socially acceptable. The novel itself reads like a reflective piece and holds its own bits of sentiment and introspection that can relate to readers of any age. For those above their teenage years, this novel would be a good way to reflect on past experiences and about the years where it feels like the most growing up and evolving occurs. One does not need to necessarily be a fan of YA literature in order to enjoy Aristotle and Dante. Even though its protagonist is a teenager himself, the novel explores mature themes like mental illnesses, familial issues, and self-discovery. This book is a quick read, but it is not a light read. It’ll leave readers thinking long after they close its cover.
At this time, not much is known about the sequel. Saenz is in the process of writing its initial draft, so readers have time to pick up the first novel before moving onto the second. While Saenz originally claimed that the sequel was a retelling of the first novel from Dante’s perspective, that has been changed. Now it will pick right up where the first one ended from Aristotle’s perspective. If the sequel is anything like the first, then it will have an abundance of emotions, continued reflections, and a further exploration of the themes discussed in the first novel. With this, hopefully, the story of Aristotle and Dante will continue to gain critical success and reach out to its audience who needs the story of these two boys to be told.