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  • Staff report

Love Story in El Paso

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

BY SERGIO ELIZONDO - Following the success of the El Paso love story with “Aristotle and Dante,” author Benjamin Alire Sáenz finally gives fans the sequel to the beloved coming-of-age novel. Still set in Texas, “Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World” will follow the titular characters as they explore their relationship against heteronormativity during the last years of the 1980s.

The world was first introduced to Aristotle Mendoza and Dante Quintana when the book was published hardback in 2012; and since then, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” has earned massive acclaim – Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Children’s/Young Adult, Stonewall Book Award for LBGT Fiction, Pura Belpré Narrative Medal for Latino fiction, and the Michael L. Printz Award for Young Adult fiction. Now, the YA novel is getting the Hollywood treatment, as the live-action film based on the book is attracting big names like Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Some readers have argued that the “…Secrets of the Universe” isn’t much of a love story compared to other romance novels. However, in interviews, the author has defended a broader explanation.

Sáenz has stated that the first novel in this series is a story about love (in many forms) rather than a “love story” – and I would agree. Before Aristotle and Dante discover a love for each other, they firstly learn to appreciate themselves through their steadfast friendship – which improves the dynamics of both family units, and thereby enables both teens to consider possibilities for future aspirations and their overall adolescence. It is the perfect setup for a second book, eager to go beyond a first kiss between lovers.

In “Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World,” the story continues where the first book closes. Now as a couple and relying on friends and family, Aristotle and Dante will face their senior year of high school amid an antigay climate. With thoughts of college, the

titular characters will also face bigotry, faith, racial identity, sexuality, the AIDS epidemic, violence, social acceptance, and cultural expectations.

As a fan of the series, I won’t spoil the second book… but “Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World” was worth the read. Will the love of Aristotle and Dante conquer all? You will have to read the book for yourself, that’s one “secret of the universe” that I encourage readers to find for themselves.

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