Saturday, 27 June 2015

Book Review- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

So, it’s Pride Day, or whatever you call the day where really major cities hold their Pride celebrations, being the last weekend of June and thus commemeorating the Stonewall Riots. It’s also the day after the Supreme Court of the USA announced it’s a constiutional right for all people regardless of gender and sexuality to get married if they choose, and states can’t deny this. YAY!! In celebration, here’s a book I read for Faye’s LGBT Readathon and really enjoyed!

Title:  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author:  Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Series:   N/A
Published:    February 2012 by Simon and Schuster
Length:  368 pages
Source: borrowed from friend
Summary : 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.

Review: 1987. Two very different boys meet and form a friendship. Together they have fun, navigate their teenage years and, learn things about the universe and themselves.
I've had this on my to read list for ages, because it's on many people's lists of brilliant gay teen novels, and it's been hard to find (I don't think it has a UK publisher). Yay for friends who bother buying things off the internet instead!
This is one of those quietly brilliant books. I'm not always into discovering who you are type stories, but I liked this one.
My favourite thing was watching the friendship between Aristotle and Dante grow. It's organic, full of setbacks, but ultimately endures. It's a beautifully close friendship and love, and it just makes you smile for them, because it's the kind that makes you think they're soulmates, and makes it natural for things to progress at the end, but it would be OK even if it didn't because some kinds of bond are so profound they don't need anything else but if there is then that's fine too.
Close second is all the family relationships going on, from the easiness with Dante's father (who is a generally awesome person) to the awkwardness surrounding Aristotle's imprisoned brother.
Then there's  the development of Aristotle and Dante, Dante knowong what he wants, Aristotle figuring it out. They learn a lot, they go through a lot with and without each other.
Also, the final feeling the book left me with. It's not loud happiness, like Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, another gay story I got through quickly and loved. In Aristotle and Dante,  it's more a quiet kind of contentment, that everything's been resolved, that the future will all work out.
This is all becsuse of the writing (OK, all books are what they are because of writing, but here I want to make a point of it). It's narrated by Aristotle, and we see  Dante directly from his letters. We get all of Aristotle's thoughts and questions and emotions and view of the world and it all comes together into a story that feels real and full.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a tender, gentle story about many forms of love.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Book Review- I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Title:   I’ll Give You the Sun by
Author:  Jandy Nelson
Series:   N/A
Published:   2 April 2015 by Walker
Length:  416 pages
Source: library
Other info:  Nelson has also written The Sky is Everywhere
Summary : Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
Review: Jude and Noah are close twins, both aiming to get into art school, both falling in love. Then their mum dies, and the bond breaks.
From everyone else's reviews, I was hoping I'd liked this. The first chapter starts well, introducing us to a thirteen year old artist who frequently envisions paintings in his head. We learn of his aim to get into art school, an aim shared by his twin sister. The second chapter is narrated by said twin, age 16, frustrated with her art projects, and frequently referring to the advice her grandmother gave her. From then, I don't really know.
It's hard to get in to. Literary-wise, I appreciate the character consistency of painting titles and advice. Reader-wise, I found it annoying. It also took me time to work out  the  thing with Grandma and ghosts. Was it supernatural? Was it Jude's personal beliefs? I knew nothing about this book before I started beyond the near universal love from bloggers. It was quite confusing.
I didn't connect properly to the characters. This  then had a knock on effect on my overall experience of the book.
I didn't mind reading about all the interactions between Jude, Guillermo, and Oscar, and Noah and Brian. But I just didn't really care. Also, if you asked me to describe chronologically what happened, I would be totally unable to do so.
To be honest, I only had three reasons to keep reading this. One: because so many people enjoyed it, and I felt I needed to persevere. Two: I really wanted to know why Noah hadn't made it into the art school, when from the (admittedly biased because it's narrated by him) first chapter. Three (when we found out why): It was so far in to the book I may as well finish it.

Overall:  Strength two tea to a book I was hoping to enjoy, but sadly couldn't.