“Words were different when they lived inside of you.”
― Benjamin Alire Sáenz,
I don’t even know where to start talking about this book. It was an absolutely amazing experience. Deeply enjoyable. I had such an emotional experience from beginning to end. It deserved all four awards it received, and probably should have a lot more.
The year is 1987, and Aristotle Mendoza is fifteen years old. The first thing I noticed was Aristotle, or Ari, has a very straight forward, first-person narrative. His voice is strong as he explores his solitary world and the secrets surrounding it. He came to his parents late in life. Being the much younger counterpart to his adult twin sisters and brother is not something Ari enjoys, but it’s just another secret to add to the list. The Vietnam war lives inside his father, his older brother has been stricken from the family since imprisonment, and the worst secret of all, Ari himself.
Ari’s contentment to let these secrets lie changes one hot summer day when he meets Dante. A happy, confident kid who awakens many things in Ari. The most important of which is the need to finally have a best friend to share his burdens with.
Why is Ari so drawn to someone who has no secrets inside them? Will Ari ever discover the answers to his unasked questions?
Benjamin Alire Saenz is a master with the written word. Each character is so mesmerizing, and truthful to their individual personality. El Paso built up around these two boys, becoming the perfect setting to house their world and experiences. The desert has never seemed so lovely.
When I finished reading, I am unashamed to say I had an emotional outburst of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ proportions. I want to read everything Saenz has written, and maybe even show up unannounced at his creative writing class in El Paso. Only time will tell.
Please go read this book. It’s beautiful.