I think my enjoyment of it stemmed in a big way from the fact that I knew very little about it before going in. I knew that it was about two boys who are friends and I also knew that literally everyone I’ve spoken to loved it, but other than that I was completely in the dark. I hadn’t even read the blurb. I think this helped because I discovered events at the same time as Ari did, and I had no idea what might be coming up next.
So in a way I don’t want to give anything at all away in my review. I’m not going to summarise the plot, because Aristotle and Dante is a story of self-discovery and it’s made all the more powerful if you’re discovering everything along with them. All you need to know is this: it’s completely adorable and I was in floods of tears at the end.
The characters are beautiful. Not just Aristotle and Dante, but their parents, too. Their respective parents play a big part in this book and while oftentimes parents in YA books are there just to provide tension (which is fine; tension between teens and their parents isn’t exactly a stretch of the imagination) I like it when happy relationships are shown too. That’s not to say these characters don’t have their problems - god knows, they do - but the strength of their family bonds is very evident.
I also thought it was really interesting was the author’s portrayal of being gay in the eighties. Because I’m basically as old as dirt, I remember the eighties fairly well and I remember the eighties being a time that pretty much sucked if you were gay. Because the British media never let facts get in the way of a good story, AIDS and HIV links to the gay community were massively hyped. Rupert Murdoch’s delightful newspapers were running headlines like ‘Pits and Perverts’ (in response to the LGBT community’s support of the miners’ strikes), while the Daily Mail (quelle surprise) ran with such moderate, sensitive headlines as “Britain threatened by gay virus plague” (6th January 1985).
Awesome. Just awesome.
Obviously research quickly proved that AIDS wasn’t god’s way of smiting the gay population for being Bad and Wrong, but the stigma stuck around for a long time. The eighties were great in a lot of ways, but in an equal number of ways they were totally, totally shit and I think this book does a really good job of showing just how shit it could be.
I found this book to be a quietly beautiful story of two boys finding their way in the world. There’s tension and angst, but nothing is over-dramatised. The language is very simple and straightforward and it makes the story all the more touching.
And the ending had me in bits. Bits, I tell you!