Narrator: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Length: 7 hours 29 minutes
Read: February 2017
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.
Oh man, this book. Honestly, in the beginning I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy this book. I originally got it because I had seen so many positive reviews about it and I saw that the audiobook was both short AND narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda, so I thought I’d give it a go. And now? I’m not sure my heart can take this book!
This was such a beautiful story about friendship, growing up, family, sexuality, and so much more. I loved the relationship between Dante and Aristotle and that it takes place in the 80s. I feel like if this book took place at this time, in 2017, it wouldn’t be the same. I really felt for both of the characters and the struggles they had, especially Ari since he was fighting it so much and he had such a different home life from Dante. It might have seemed too angsty to some, but I felt like both characters were real. I also enjoyed the parents in the story and that both sets of parents weren’t the same. And their emotional responses to their sons over the few years they knew each other had me in tears. While I can’t personally connect with the boys in the story, as a parent, I could definitely connect with them.
I feel like this is a necessary story to read and definitely an important one with LGBTQ issues raised. Part-way through I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, what with Ari’s favourite word ‘shit’ being uttered over and over and over again, but then it’s like something clicked and I just got it. Seriously beautiful story and highly recommended! And I love that cover, too — it’s so pretty and just represents a very important part of the story.
Despite the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda narrates this book, there’s nothing overly special about the narration. I got the audiobook from the library because of his narration and I feel like he did a great job of really getting the emotional parts out in the story. When narrating two teenage boys, they could easily sound the same, but he gave them each a different voice — you could feel the lighthearted hope in Dante’s voice, and then the struggle and angst in Ari’s. Like I said, the audiobook was short, but I still listened to it slowly over three days and I’m glad that I did. It was really enjoyable to listen to!