Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World

S. & S. Oct. 2021. 528p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781534496194.
Gr 9 Up–Sáenz’s long-anticipated sequel to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe delivers tender teen romance punctuated with questions of identity and belonging. Ari and Dante, 17 and in love, want to live in the newness of their relationship forever. But summer’s almost over, which means they’ll not only head back to their separate high schools but also have to “map out a new world” in a 1988 Texas that doesn’t universally accept them. On the bright side, meeting Dante has helped Ari break out of his “melancholy boy” phase. Ari even makes friends with classmates formerly seen as enemies. But Ari’s inner battles with his sexuality and shame have him wondering, “Why does love have to hurt so much?” Meanwhile, the backdrop of the AIDS pandemic—first on TV screens and in headlines, then affecting members of their community—casts a grim shadow. Can the two boys stay together in a future that seeks to tear them apart? Nearly double in length to its predecessor, this book packs a lot into its five parts as the gay teens contend with the realities—and work—of relationships. Ari’s sensitive first-person narration, which includes beautifully reflective journal entries, encapsulates struggles with internalized homophobia and its intersections with masculinity and Mexican American identity. Slow-paced and poetic, this emotional rollercoaster is buoyed by hope, swoonworthy kisses, and exquisite characterization.
VERDICT This literary romance will woo hearts and minds alike. A must-purchase for all libraries.

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