August 11, 2021 7:36 AM EDT

“Some boys just know they’re gay. I don’t know how that happens. And I think other boys don’t know, and then they start discovering that.” According to Benjamin Alire Sáenz, this is the dichotomy at the heart of his critically acclaimed 2012 novel, a Michael L. Printz Honor book and winner of the Stonewall Book, Lambda Literary and Pura Belpré awards. Lauded for its honest exploration of identity and sexuality, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe centers on the friendship between Aristotle “Ari” Mendoza and Dante Quintana, two Mexican American boys on the cusp of manhood who form a life-changing bond after a chance meeting at an El Paso pool in the summer of 1987. The lyrical six-part story is told from the perspective of Ari, a lonely and often angry 15-year-old who struggles with his Vietnam War vet father’s inability to communicate and his mother’s refusal to discuss the reason his older brother is in prison. But as his tender and fateful relationship with sensitive and outgoing Dante grows deeper, Ari begins to come to terms with not only his family, but also himself.

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