One swallow does not make a summer…

…and one amazing book does not make a writer amazing. Ok, it does, but it doesn’t make all his books amazing.

Benjamin Alire Saenz: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

ILML has lovable characters and their relationships are as flawed and lovely as they are. Everything is a combination of perfect imperfections, which I really enjoyed. Up to the point where I started struggling against it and then finally rejected it completely.

The Narrator

Salvador is the narrator of the book which deals with people, family, friendship and pain which invariably comes when you love. Like any other teenager (and a lot of adults) he’s having a hard time dealing with the changes which are out of his control. I liked Sally at the beginning when he still had a semblance of a person. As the book progresses the reality of him seeps away and he becomes nothing more than a narrator of a poorly constructed story.

The Writing

The flow of words is not effortless – quite the contrary. It seems forced and artificial. In a story which deals with everyday things, the artifice ruins everything. In ILML you can tell in advance when the author is preparing to give you a deep thought or a beautiful sentence. And there are beautiful sentences and quotes worth jotting down.

The Story

The story is what I minded the most. I know a lot of people have to deal with a lot of shit in their lives, but I think it really was not necessary to wreak havoc on every single character in this book. This only added to the feeling that everything was less than honest, because some of these tragic events seemed uncalled for which was most evident in a flippant way they were treated.

The End

The worst thing is definitely the ending. All the pain, loss and confusion are neatly resolved in the final chapter which is a lecture written by a 17-year-old Salvador Silva. Lazy.

 No bueno.

Remember the Rain

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a sweet, unpretentious take on life and on what it means to be human. It made me wonder about the inner life of boys, something I’ve always believed was non-existent. I know it sounds a bit nasty to say that, but, growing up, I always thought boys had it easy. It lingered, I guess, as a force of habit, something I’ve never felt necessary to reassess.

While reading Aristotle and Dante, I was forced to re-examine those notions and I loved the journey. I loved the first few steps, when I was still thinking that Benjamin Alire Sáenz was putting depth and complexity where they had no place. I enjoyed carefully treading into the territory where I will be struck by sudden realization that I’ve had my narrow-sighted glasses on for too long.

Finding myself in a place where all bets were off – change of viewpoint pending – I realized I was in love.  I fell in love with the simplicity and ease with which my preconceived ideas were shattered into billion pieces, shimmering under the new-found light.

I was reminded that discovering the secrets of the universe means unlearning innocence and playfulness which made me feel morose. What I admire the most about this book is the fact that there wasn’t a single sentence in it which made me think that someone older than 17 was writing it. I think amazing talent and excruciating effort are behind that, behind keeping your years and experience at bay.

I have to admit when I started reading Ari and Dante I was pissed that I had in my hands yet another book with first person narrator. Don’t get me wrong, I think 1st person narration is awesome but it takes skills to pull it off. Thank God Benjamin got skillz. The result is Aristotle, one of those characters that you inescapably fall in love with. He’s a guy who sticks around on the edges of emotion and memory and comes back every once in a while to remind you of sweet melancholy.

At one point, Ari writes:

High school was just a prologue to the real novel. Everybody got to write you, but when you graduated you got to write yourself.

That’ll keep me awake at night, because I still feel someone else is writing my novel, I still feel I need to take that pen and start writing my own story.

Read Ari and Dante. It’s profoundly beautiful. And don’t forget to remember the rain.

A/N: This book is the latest addition to the MiniBookClub. You can read my book buddy’s take on the book over at Anatomy of Reading and Other Demented Things.