Reviewing Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe with #UnpopularOpinion Time

I’ve been meaning to read Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe for years now but somehow never got to it. Recently, it was free on RivetedLit for a period of time so I put my schedule on hold to get it done.

I loved this so much. It’s not ‘just’ about being gay or Mexican-American. It’s about families, cultures, secrets, and the cost of silence. It’s almost everything. Almost.

Series: Ari & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe #1
Genre: Contemporary, Coming of Age, QUILTBAG,
Age: YA
Format: Ebook, 368 pgs.
Source: Free on
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Recommendable? Yes
CW: Transphobia

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

It’s poetic yet unpretentious. It’s emotional but not angsty emo.

I loved the conversations, the insights, the exploration, the discovery and the wonder of it all.

I was so sure where it was going and then…and then…It ends beautifully with the outcome I wanted.

It was published 4 years ago, so I’m sure you’ve heard it all and others have said it better than me. (Of course, if you haven’t, you totally should and let me know because I’ve never met someone more behind than me lol)

I agree with so many other people and plenty of people have gushed and championed this book for so many great reasons. Some of whom brought up this one Minor Thing…

~~~Beware All The Spoilers Below~~~


I do wish Ari figured it out himself but…there are times when someone else does force you to face facts. Denial is a powerful thing. I can’t actually picture Ari making this realization himself though so I don’t have constructive criticism. Vagueness isn’t conductive though and it’s easy to shrug off. It felt good while reading, how it unfolded felt natural.

I wish I could stop there. But I can’t. It’s #UnpopularOpinion time.

Intersectionality & Transphobia in the Gay Community

You can be oppressed and oppress others on another axis

I don’t like the parallels between Ari and his older brother, Bernardo after the latter’s crime is revealed. It seems to be saying he was repressed as well and killed someone as a result. That’s how I read it. If I’m wrong, it’s “just” another trans panic murder.

Why choose this type of person as the victim? If Ari’s brother was always looking for fights like Ari, why not just another dude in the neighborhood?

While the Mendozas brush her off and don’t care about her, there has to be a reason for this choice. I see it has a lesson for people about gay men using another vulnerable population of people as media always does. In this respect, Ari & Dante is not new and continues the problematic portrayal.

California JUST outlawed it in 2014.
Fucking seriously…

What about the victim? What do we actually know? They’re never identified as a person. Just a nameless, faceless feminine prostitute with a penis. Ari and crew only use ignorant and derogatory language like “actually a guy”. It’s fucking murder caused by trans* panic. The only reason Bernardo didn’t use that defense and get away with the murder is because he was ashamed.

Check the rest from Validation Comic

I don’t accept that it was set in the 80s as an excuse or defense, because I wouldn’t have accepted that shit then either. There have always been and always will be trans* people. Trans* women were key leaders of Stonewall, the foundation of the Pride movement in 1969, FFS. It’s not impossible for Ari and Dante (especially fucking Dante) to know better. And if transphobia slides by but being accepting breaks your suspension of disbelief, the problem is you.

While I grieve for her, it’s also an entire community erased. Another fatality to toxic masculinity homophobia propagating the idea that self-hate drives hate crimes against the QUILTBAG community. While Ari’s, his brother’s, and his victim’s intersection is similar and related, they way the differ cannot be ignored. Or, more realistically, shouldn’t be.

I’m sitting here pondering a lot of why questions. Ari & Dante wouldn’t have lost a thing if the language was changed or the victim was, it would’ve gained more.

My heart lurched when I read this reveal and sunk when I realized they were used as tool for a lesson. But it cracked when I couldn’t find another reviewer who brought up this issue before me, hence the #unpopularopinion tag. If you saw this, if you wrote about it, I’m sorry. It was missed in multitude of reviews. Please let me know and/or link it, I’ll happily read it. It’d be nice to know I’m not alone in this. Update: I found ONE!

Aristotle & Dante is wonderful important story for so many reasons. Even if you don’t care about that aspect, it’s a fantastic well-written coming of age novel. But I don’t want Bernardo’s victim forgotten. Being intersectional is so important, no one is exempt. Especially when there’s a history of the trans* individuals being discriminated against within the rainbow community.

It leaves a terrible black mark on my thoughts and feelings for this book. I want to love it unequivocally but I cannot passively accept the transphobia. It’s not just a few passing remarks. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I can’t help but include this as another problematic fav and think you should too.

It would’ve been 5 stars before the transphobic snag but it derailed the discovery and last part of the book for me. I cheered for Ari and Dante, but a portion of my mind couldn’t leave Bernardo’s victim and participate in the celebration.


  1. Girls That on

    I must say, I've never read this book! And I've only started seeing it around within the last two weeks. Your review (the non-spoiler part) has made me want to read it!

  2. Cee Arr on

    I love the way you review – you have such a strong voice! 🙂 And I love the way you found different (and important!) things to say about this than a lot of other reviewers. In places I skimmed this review b/c spoilers, but overall your review rocks! 🙂 And I really need to read this book!

    1. Brooke Banks on

      Thank you so much for that! I always worry if I'm coming on too strong or am too bland/generic.

      I can't wait for you to read it, please let me know what you think. I'd love to talk about the spoiler-y bits 😀

Leave A Comment

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.