Hello hello, and welcome or welcome back to my little corner of the internet, or maybe, more aptly, the universe, as that’s what we’re looking at today. I’ve had this book on my shelves for a while, but I ended up reading this as an audiobook, and really enjoyed the narration of it. I think I would have enjoyed the paperback, but some books are just fabulous as audio, like I mentioned in Audiobooks To Relax With, and Audiobooks I’ve Adored.
Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.
But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other ― and the power of their friendship ― can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.
I found this book slightly hard to appraoch as the chapters are often so short that it’s difficult to keep up with the regularly changing topic or time point, however, the further I got into the book the less that bothered me, and the more it fit with the rhythm of the story.
What this book managed to capture brilliantly is how lost you can be in yourself as a teenager, especially as one questioning your sexuality. It also managed to paint a very clear picture of how hard that would be in the 80s. Growing up, I had worked out I wasn’t straight in an era and an area where this wasn’t seen as big news, but the idea of facing that twenty years earlier would be intimidating. Ari especially finds it challenging, as a son in a Mexican-American household, fearing how his family will react to the news. So he fights it, pushes it down, and becomes hugely angry because he’s fighting himself as well as all the demons that come with being a sixteen year old.
Another thing I really respected was the demonstration of teenagers slowly realising that parents aren’t demons, and are actually just grown up children who are making as much of a mess of things as teenagers feel they are – just minus the hormones. I remember strongly looking at my parents for the first time and thinking “bloody hell, they’re actually just humans”, like it was some big revolation. It’s one of those moments when you know you really are growing up.
The character differences between Dante and Ari are striking, yet hugely complementiary, making the other shine all the more. The fact that Dante’s open heart and ability to express himself is something that Ari finds bemusing shows them both clearly in their own glory; the fact there is no right or wrong way to be or to grow up, but ultimiately, you owe yourself your honesty.
I wasn’t sure about this book for about the first third of it, but found it picked up from there, and the last few chapters were particularly beautiful, well written and pure in the emotion they demonstrated. I know there is a long-awaited sequel coming out later this year, and it will be going on my TBR as these are characters I would love to see more from.