Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Book Description

In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.

Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.

The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.

My Review

Readers need to begin with the first book; they need to understand where the protagonists have been in order to fully appreciate the journey they undertake over the course of this sequel.

Ari and Dante fell in love over the course of the first book, and they spend this one exploring their relationship: both the intense feelings of attractions and the emotional aspect of loving someone else so much.

The prose is gorgeous. It’s so lyrical—the words just flow across the page, and when combined with an intriguing storyline, it makes it difficult to put down. The narrative unfolds solely from Ari’s perspective, and being with Dante helps him gather a new outlook on aspects of his life he took for granted, such as his friendship with Susie and Gina from the first book. It also helps him draw perspective on other aspects of his life that he’s been avoiding for years. In both cases, it appears that acknowledging his true self serves as the source of these changes.

With a setting in the late 1980s, the AIDS pandemic is an unavoidable topic for our two protagonists. While neither is directly affected by it in terms of a diagnosis, the public’s reaction to the crisis—ranging from disinterest to outright disgust—does have an impact on the boys. Despite this negativity, Ari and Dante have each other, as well as the support of both sets of parents and their friend group. And that’s all they need.

I would absolutely recommend Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World. On the surface, we have the story of two Mexican-American boys coming of age in the late 1980s, but this is a story with such profound depth. There are so many beautiful quotes about our place in the universe, and solitude, and letting other people in—that are going to stay with me for a long time. My 14 year old read the first book while at summer camp, and was thrilled to pieces to learn that I had an ARC. She devoured it in less than a day, declared it wonderful, and couldn’t wait to tell the friend who loaned her the book about how cool I am. So, long story short, this book has the seal of approval from a member of the target demographic.   

I received an ARC of this book from Simon & Schuster/NetGalley.

Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa

Book Description

Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.

Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self.

Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.

Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.

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The (Un)Popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez

Book Description

Optics can make or break an election. Everything Mark knows about politics, he learned from his father, the Congressman who still pretends he has a daughter and not a son.

Mark has promised to keep his past hidden and pretend to be the cis guy everyone assumes he is. But when he sees a manipulatively charming candidate for student body president inflame dangerous rhetoric, Mark risks his low profile to become a political challenger.

The problem? No one really knows Mark. He didn’t grow up in this town, and his few friends are all nerds. Still, thanks to Scandal and The West Wing, they know where to start: from campaign stops to voter polling to a fashion makeover.

Soon Mark feels emboldened to engage with voters—and even start a new romance. But with an investigative journalist digging into his past, a father trying to silence him, and the bully frontrunner standing in his way, Mark will have to decide which matters most: perception or truth, when both are just as dangerous.

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Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

Book Description

Welcome to Charon’s Crossing.
The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.

And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.

But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.

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Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas

Book Description

Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, or in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be “normal” again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team–even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends have been acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize that he has a crush on him . . .


But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. But if they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves–and each other.

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It Had to Be You by Georgia Clark 

Book Description 

For the past twenty years, Liv and Eliot Goldenhorn have run In Love In New York, Brooklyn’s top wedding planning business. That is, until Eliot dies while visiting his younger, blonder girlfriend, Savannah Shipley, an events intern from Kentucky. In a twist no one sees coming, Eliot leaves his half of the business to Savannah, who had no idea Eliot was still married.

To Liv’s horror, Savannah won’t sell: she wants to help Liv build the now-failing business into the thriving company it used to be. Liv finds herself widowed and shackled to the inexperienced if optimistic Savannah, her polar opposite in every way. But what starts as a personal and professional nightmare transforms into something even savvy, cynical Liv Goldenhorn couldn’t begin to imagine.

Sexy, tender, and utterly charming, It Had to Be You cleverly tells multiple modern love stories, featuring Liv, Savannah, and the various florists, caterers, musicians, and other vendors of the business, in a joyous Love Actually-style braided narrative. Second chances, secret romances, and steamy soul mates are front and center in this smart, emotional, laugh-out-loud rom com that’ll renew your faith in love and have you swooning on every page. 

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Slingshot by Mercedes Helnwein

Book Description

Mercedes Helnwein’s Slingshot is an exciting debut contemporary young adult novel perfect for fans of Rainbow Rowell and Mary H. K. Choi

“I didn’t think it was going to be anything like this when I finally fell in love. I thought it was going to be pretty simple. Like, I’d love someone and they’d love me. I thought that’s the way it worked.”

Grace Welles is stuck at a third-tier boarding school in the swamps of Florida, where her method of survival is a strict, self-imposed loneliness. And it works. Her crap attitude keeps people away because without friends, there are fewer to lose.

But when she accidentally saves the new kid, Wade Scholfield, from being beaten up, everything about her precariously balanced loner world collapses and, in order to find her footing again, she has no choice but to discover a completely new way to exist.

Because with Wade around, school rules are optional, weird is okay, and conversations about wormholes can lead to make-out sessions that disrupt any logical stream of thought. Nothing’s perfect, but that’s not the point. When they’re together everything seems uncomplicated in a way that Grace knows is not possible.

Except it is.

So why does Grace crush Wade’s heart into a million pieces?

Acidly funny and compulsive readable, this debut is a story about two people finding each other and then screwing it all up. See also: soulmate, stupidity, sex, friendship, bad poetry, very bad decisions and all the indignities of being in love for the first time.

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Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee

Book Description

Felix Ever After meets Becky Albertalli in this swoon-worthy, heartfelt rom-com about how a transgender teen’s first love challenges his ideas about perfect relationships.

Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.

When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.

In this charming novel by Emery Lee, Noah will have to choose between following his own rules for love or discovering that the most romantic endings are the ones that go off script.

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All Kinds of Other by James Sie

Book Description

In this tender, nuanced coming-of-age love story, two boys—one who is cis, and one who is trans—have been guarding their hearts, until their feelings for each other give them a reason to stand up to their fears.

Two boys are starting over at a new high school.

Jules is still figuring out what it means to be gay…and just how out he wants to be.

Jack is reeling from a fall-out with his best friend…and isn’t ready to let anyone else in just yet.

When Jules and Jack meet, the sparks are undeniable. But when a video linking Jack to a pair of popular trans vloggers is leaked to the school, the revelations thrust both boys into the spotlight they’d tried to avoid.

Suddenly Jack and Jules must face a choice: to play it safe and stay under the radar, or claim their own space in the world—together.

My Review

I loved the way in which the narrative unfolds in this book. It begins with Jules’ first person perspective as he first sees Jack from a distance at a friend’s house and then meets him again at school. We get to know him and his family life—parents are divorced, and he’s starting public school for the first time in his life. He’s getting to know Jack better and then there’s an incident at school.

From there, the perspective switches to Jack, and we go back to the end of the summer when he first arrives in Los Angeles with his would-be actor father. They’re both here for a fresh start, and Jack will have the opportunity to start school as himself for the first time. As was the case with Jules’ portion, Jack’s part of the book leads up to the same incident.

The final part of the book consists of alternating chapters as both boys—and their families—deal with the incident.

Interspersed throughout the narrative are references to people named Adam and Evie. At first these interludes don’t make much sense, but eventually they do. I can’t say much more, but they add another layer of depth to the big picture.

Jack and Jules find each other at a time in which they both needed someone the most. Their initial misgivings give way to a mutual understanding, as they bond over the gulab jamun that Jack’s mom taught him to make.

I would absolutely recommend All Kinds of Other. I had a hard time putting it down because I had to find out what was going to happen next. This is a heavy story at times, but there’s always an undercurrent of hope, and that’s what kept me riveted. I’m looking forward to reading more from Sie in the future.

I received an ARC of this book from Quill Tree Books/NetGalley