Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of The World

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Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World is the sequel to the young adult novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. The Aristotle and Dante duology unsurprisingly follows a teenage protagonist named Aristotle, Ari for short, as he befriends another boy, Dante at the community pool that summer in the 80s. He slowly begins to realize that he is in love with Dante and that Dante loves him back. Dive into the Waters of the World continues this plot with Aristotle navigating his relationship with Dante which must keep secret from much of the world, in the height of the AIDS pandemic. Ari is also struggling to find his place in the world as a gay Mexican-American.

Like, Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Ari does much philosophizing as he questions his religion and society’s treatment of LGBTQ+ people and people of color. Maybe this is just because it’s years since I read the first book in the series. But I started to tire of all the philosophizing. Ari spends most of the novel navel-gazing, rather than following a specific plot. And the novel is 528 pages long, so I just wanted to be done with it.

Spoilers below the cut:

But then Ari’s father dies in a completely unexpected, heartwrenching scene. I lost multiple relatives this past year and Saenz was able to hold a mirror to my grief, to the shock, the trauma, the sadness. Ari would wake up and remember that his father was dead, just as I would remember the deaths of my loved ones. His grief was more extreme than mine since he lost a closer family member. But that feeling Ari described, that realization that the pain will never fully go away because his father is never coming back, is one that I myself have experienced. It is a feeling that most of us have experienced, and if not, we will experience it someday if we are capable of love.

This plot point did however make the pacing of Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the Universe feel off to me. This part happens towards the end of the novel, and I think it would have been valuable if it happened earlier. Had Ari’s father died earlier in the novel, the plot as a whole could have had more of a focus on this grief which would have made it more compelling to me.

All in all, if you liked Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe you’ll probably find this sequel somewhat satisfying, but I didn’t like it as much as the first novel of the duology. The last half of the book can be valuable for processing grief though. I’d give it three out of five stars.

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