Favorite Quotes from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I recently finished this book and fell in love with the writing.

Since it was borrowed from the library, I had to copy the quotes I like down anyway, so I decided I’d share them with you here.


As far as I was concerned, the sun could have melted the blue right off the sky. Then the sky could be as miserable as I was.


The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.


Words were different when they lived inside of you.


Through that telescope, the world was closer and larger than I’d ever imagined. And it was all so beautiful and overwhelming and I – I don’t know – it made me aware that there was something inside of me that mattered.


“Someday, I’m going to discover all the secrets of the universe.”
That made me smile. “What are you going to do with all those secrets, Dante?”
“I’ll know what to do with them,” he said. “Maybe change the world.”


“We have to know the exact distance,” he said.
“Because when you do something, you have to know exactly what you are doing.”



And why is it that some guys had tears in them and some had no tears at all? Different boys lived by different rules.

I knew that everything was real. Except me.


My father was still there, sitting on my rocking chair. We studied each other for a moment as I lay in bed.
“You were looking for me,” he said.
I looked at him.
“In your dream. You were looking for me.”
“I’m always looking for you,” I whispered.


I didn’t know exactly how to say what I was holding inside me.


“I’ll tell you a secret. I’m not responsible for whether my students care or don’t care. That care has to come from them – not me.”
“Where does that leave you?”
“No matter what, Ari, my job is to care.”



Maybe tears were something you caught. Like the flu.


I could be something and nothing at the same time. I could be necessary and also invisible. Everyone would need me and no one would be able to see me.


“You belong everywhere you go. That’s just how you are.”


I wanted to tell him that the world would never belong to us.



He looked at the hail. “It’s like pissed off snow.”


I wanted to feel those words in my mouth as I spoke them aloud. Words could be like food – they felt like something in your mouth. They tasted like something.


I have always felt terrible inside. The reasons for this keep changing.


The problem is not that I don’t love my mother and father. The problem is that I don’t know how to love them.


“Maybe you’ll be a writer,” she said. “A poet.”
It sounded like such a beautiful thing when she said it. Too beautiful for me.


Just when she was becoming less of a mystery, she became more of one.

Mr. Quintana was brave. He didn’t care if the whole world knew he was kind. Dante was just like him.



I wondered about the science of storms and how sometimes it seemed that a storm wanted to break the world and how the world refused to break.


He smiled and then, I don’t know, there was this look on his face and it was so hard to tell what he was thinking or feeling, which was strange because Dante’s face was a book that the whole world could read.


“You saved my life.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose.”


“What do you have against adults?”
“They too have many ideas about who we are. Or who we should be.”


“When Mom thinks something is a good idea, there’s no escape. It’s best to go along quietly.”


It was good to laugh. I wanted to laugh and laugh and laugh until I laughed myself into becoming someone else.


My mother and father held hands. I wondered what that was like, to hold someone’s hand. I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone’s hand.


My father decided he would read everything that I read. Maybe that was our way of talking.



The whole world seemed to be quiet and calm and I wanted be the world and feel like that.


Somehow I hoped that this would be the summer that I would discover that I was alive. The world my mom and dad said was out there waiting for me. That world doesn’t actually exist.


My dad just didn’t need words to get by in the world. I wasn’t like that. Well, I was like that on the outside, pretending not to need words. But I wasn’t like that on the inside.


Summer was a book of hope. THat’s why I loved and hated summers. Because they made me want to believe.


If Summer was a book then I was going to write something beautiful in it. In my own handwriting. But I had no idea what to write. And already the book was being written for me. ALready it wasn’t all that promising.


He looked so happy and I wondered about that, his capacity for happiness. WHere did that come from? Did I have that kind of happiness inside me? Was I just afraid of it?



Love was always something heavy for me. Something I had to carry.


It was if my eyes were a camera and I was photographing the moment, knowing that I would keep that photograph forever.


Maybe everyone loves differently. Maybe that’s all that mattered.


“Why does it matter so much?”
“If it matters, it matters.”


You can’t make anyone be an adult. Especially adults.


I needed us to be alright. And he needed us to be all right too. And so we were.


“I don’t get you.”
“I don’t get me either.”



I closed my eyes. I held my hand out and felt the first drop and then another. A kiss. A kiss. The sky was kissing me.


Storms always made me feel so small.


The summer sun was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain.



Everyone was always becoming someone else.


“I don’t know how to fight it Dad.”
“You should ask for help,” he said.
“I don’t know how to do that, either.”


“I didn’t know I could love you this much.”


To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing.


I knew that a part of him would never be the same. They cracked more than his ribs.


Senior year. And then life. Maybe that’s the way it worked. High School was just a prologue to the real novel.


This was what was wrong with me. All this time I had been trying to figure out the secrets of the universe, the secrets of my own body, of my own heart. All of the answers had always been so close and yet I had always fought them without even knowing it.



There are worse things in the world than a boy who likes to kiss other boys.


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