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ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DIVE INTO THE WATERS OF THE WORLD

From the Aristotle and Dante series

Messily human and sincerely insightful.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

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)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9619-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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