As the final year of high school approaches, Ari and Dante explore their love for each other—and their love for others—in Sáenz’s long-awaited sequel to 2012’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
For Ari, his world’s beginning to open up. After years of silence, his father begins to share more about his experiences in Vietnam and the ensuing trauma, rebuilding their relationship. Once a nuisance in Ari’s life, Gina and Susie now seem like the allies he needs to flourish, leading to even more potential friendships in surprising ways. And then there’s Dante, the boy who “found me in a swimming pool one day and changed my life.” Embarking on a relationship, Ari and Dante navigate the joys (a camping trip that takes their journey to a new level) and pains (uncertainties about life after high school) of young love. Throughout, the harsh truths of life circle the two young men: the specter of Ari’s imprisoned brother, who makes a memorable appearance; questions of what constitutes one’s sexual and cultural identities (“We’ll never be Mexican enough. We’ll never be American enough”); and the AIDS pandemic, whose tremors fill the airwaves and affect their community. Sáenz packs a whole lot into these pages, but it’s a testament to the characters that he’s created that it never feels like too much. There’s an unhurried quality to the author’s wistful, tender prose that feels utterly intimate.
Messily human and sincerely insightful.(Fiction. 14-18)