Aristotle and Dante sequel to keep fans happy, even if it raises questions


Content warning: contains statements of transphobia

The pensive and lyrical queer Latinx story of Benjamin Alire Sáenz Aristote and Dante discover the secrets of the universe was released almost a decade ago and has received critical acclaim and has been widely recognized as an important part of queer canon.

Aristotle and Dante dive into the waters of the world, the unexpected but long-awaited sequel has finally arrived, picking up pretty much where the first book left off. Best friends Ari and Dante must deal with their new romantic relationship in the late 1980s in El Paso, Texas.

Like the first novel, the plot is simply a tool for the characters to serve the themes of the book, in this case, self-discovery, identity, love, grief, and friendship. The sequel begins with Ari and Dante the summer before their senior year, a precious bubble in time before they have to grow up and face the reality around them.

These realities are many, more specifically, what does it mean to be a gay man at this time and in the world they live in? While the novels are set in a contemporary fashion, the sequel ostentatiously discusses the looming AIDS crisis, with fear and homophobia as the devastating backdrop for Ari and Dante’s blossoming love and homosexuality.

As they move through the school year and decisions about college draw closer, Ari and Dante face big questions about their relationship, as Dante’s more serious academic nature takes him abroad and Ari’s nonchalant demeanor keeps him close to home. You can probably guess where this conflict is leading.

Along the way, Ari discovers his voice and what it means to fight for his place in the vast “waters of the world”, making it a journey that is quite readable and heartfelt. However, it’s hard to ignore the growing critiques of the first book, which seem to be treated negligently in the text of the sequel.

Spoilers ahead for Aristotle and Dante Uncover the secrets of the universe.

If you haven’t read or forgot Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe, one of the big revelations towards the end of the book is that Ari’s brother is in jail for the murder of a trans sex worker. While the original novel received a lot of praise and was enjoyed overall, this particular plot point has rightly been criticized as transphobic.

In the sequel, Ari visits his brother, coming face to face with him for the first time since he was little. In the novel, the intention of the scene seems to be for Ari to exorcise his brother’s demons and move on, but on the page it reads as if the author is speaking to his critics, manhandling the victim of the novel. in the process.

Sáenz’s work is calm and lyrical in nature. Ari and Dante don’t go on huge, vibrant character arcs. Their journeys are calm and insular. It makes it all the stranger that Ari suddenly exteriorizes opinions about trans issues.

The absence of criticism might not have been better, but it certainly doesn’t feel natural for the characters.

Overall, fans of the original book will be happy. Saenz’s lyrical prose is as beautiful as ever and he stays true to the characters. You can get your copy now wherever the books are sold.

Let us know if you add Aristotle and Dante dive into the waters of the world to your TBR!

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