Theatre Review: In the Heights by Lin-Manuel Miranda

In the Heights by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Starring: a brilliantly diverse cast

Theatre: King’s Cross Theatre, London

Dates: Current; extended to January 2017

Rating: ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄

My only coherent thought after I’d watched In the Heights was “If ITH was this good, then oh my god are we in for a treat with Hamilton!” Buuut let’s rewind back to the beginning…

I’d been meaning to go and see In the Heights since it transferred to the West End in October 2015 so I jumped at the chance when I saw an opportunity to get some awesome seats at a ridiculously discounted price. Also, for all the hype Hamilton has rightly been getting, I actually knew very little about In the Heights before I went to see it beyond the perfunctory “It’s a Lin-Manuel Miranda production” (which let’s be honest is enough for most of us!) I didn’t even know that it had been nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won four – including Best Musical!

A quick summary of the story: Into the Heights: At the crack of dawn on the hottest day of summer, Usnavi opens up his tiny bodega in his neighbourhood of Washington Heights – one bustling neighbourhood where everyone knows everybody, and the breeze carries the sweet sounds of three generations of music.. Usnavi dreams of a return to his native Dominican Republic. His childhood friend, Nina, has just come from her first year at Stanford with some surprising news for her parents, and, priced out of the ‘hood’, salon owner Daniela is packing up her sass and taking it to the Bronx. But when Usnavi discovers he has sold a winning lottery ticket worth $96,000, everyone on the block gets a dose of what it means to be home.

Into the Heights deals with issues such as gentrification, family, immigrant realities, and love. But although that may sound heavy, Lin-Manuel explores it in a really poignant way that focuses on the positives. I could really relate to all of the characters on some level and I think that’ll be the case for most people. LMM is so adept at telling stories that although on the face of it his productions might seem targeted at one specific audience (Hamilton – history nerds, older gen; ITH – trendy, hipster young ‘uns) actually once you’re immersed you realise they’re cross-generational, cross-racial etc. etc. and I think that’s why his productions and songs resonate so much with so many.

ITH is a multi-character and plotline story. I honestly cannot choose a favourite character because they’re all so brilliant in their own way: Usnavi, the beleaguered shop owner deep in unrequited love; Sonny, the smooth-talking cheeky chappie, Abuela Claudia, with her simple pleasures; Nina, trying to reconcile her background with her future; Benny, who’s just trying to get by in the world and get the girl; Vanessa, the girl who seems to have all the attention but is having trouble branching out on her own, the Rosario’s, scraping by to make their daughter Nina’s future easier that they’ve had it; Daniela, the sassy salon-owner and victim of gentrification. Hell even the Piragua Guy (steet food seller) had a story and his own solo!

It sounds rather chaotic but the characters all had distinct personalities, stories and even singing styles and it was easy to follow. I loved how colourful each character was, that they all got their own solos and had backstories. But most of all it was amazing to go and see a theatre show which had the most diverse cast ever – every single actor *was* their character and it just made the whole experience so much more expressive and immersive. Their stories are told very well and it was all interwoven without being messy – it really shows how our experiences are often bigger than us and how “family” and “home” can mean so many things. I adored each and every plotline and loved how it all came together at the end.

Obviously, I can’t review a LMM production without mentioning the songs – I can confirm they were brilliant, as expected. The lyrics were just phenomenal, I am seriously in awe of Mr Miranda because honestly it’s difficult enough to rhyme words but to make weave words together into a much bigger and meaningful story is just ~wow~. There was a good balance of uplifting and upbeat ensemble songs as well as the more serious ballads and the range of styles, from freestyle rapping to duets, were fantastic. The choreography was equally diverse with everything from salsa to swing. I really recommend the In the Heights soundtrack. And on that note, the Hamilton mixtape is now available to pre-order with two songs already released. 🙂

If you’re desperately waiting for Hamilton, I really recommend going to watch In the Heights to whet your appetite until November 2017. It’s a classic Lin-Manuel Miranda production with amazing songs, diverse actors all wrapped up in a great story that’s guaranteed to leave you feeling fuzzy and warm! The production has been extended three times already due to phenomenal demand but is due to end on 7 January so be quick! Or maybe you’ve seen In the Heights already or even Hamilton (colour me green with envy)? Tell me what you thought in the comments below!

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Bookish Review: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

ATorchAgainstTheNight_CV 4.14A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Published: September 2016 by Harper Voyager

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Rating: ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄

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I pretty much pounced on A Torch Against the Night as soon as it came out. And boy am I glad I did but at the same time, I’ve seen the next book in the series is not due to be released until 2018… 2018??!! WHY!!! Anyway, enough hysterics, let’s dive on into this review.

A Torch Against the Night is the second book in the An Ember in the Ashes series which I read earlier this year (review here) so minor spoilers ahead as to how things were resolved at the end of the first book. Following the events of the Fourth Trial, Elias and Laia are now fugitives on the run from the Martial Empire, now headed up by Emperor Marcus and Helene Aquillas, his Blood Shrike, but also Elias’s oldest friend at Blackliffe Academy. After Laia saves Elias from his execution, they journey to Kauf prison where Laia’s brother Darin is being held. However, hunted by the Empire, the Commandant and otherworldly forces, the path will not be an easy one for any of our characters and difficult choices will have to be made…

Ahh where to start? Because I read the last book so recently, the plot and characters were still fresh in my mind, but Tahir made it really easy to pick up where the reader leaves off and you get totally immersed straightaway. In this book we get to see the characters dealing with the aftermath of the Trials in the last book. I found the exploration of Elias’s guilt and remorse really interesting and gave the character a lot more depth, and the chapters in the Forest of Dusk were brilliant, hinting at what we’ll see in the next book. The idea that we make the best choices we can, and that our best intentions can turn into the worst of mistakes and regret really resonated with me and made the characters feel so much more realistic and human (as if Elias needed to be any more perfect, but I digress…)

So you’ve made a few bad decisions… So has everyone attempting to do something difficult. That doesn’t mean that you give up, you fool.

Tahir excels at writing strong female characters and in A Torch Against the Night we get the whole gamut of different personalities. I loved encountering the strong Tribal characters (Afya, can I be your friend you sassy thing, you?), the reliably ruthless Commandant, as well as some other old and beloved characters from the first book, but the real standout is easily Helene. Helene Aquilla, you are flawed perfection wrapped up in scims and white blonde hair. Her various predicaments (to put it veeery lightly) throughout the book are just heart rending. I cried and raged on her behalf, she is the best kind of flawed character dealing with the ultimate unrequited love for Elias which complicates things to no end but her perseverance to protect and remain loyal in the face of so much is really admirable. I’ve raved about Helene but Laia is equally awesome, she really comes into her own in this book, asserts her independence and makes difficult choices all with saving her brother in mind. One of the things I really liked was that Tahir kept the romance to a minimum and did not try to shoehorn it in – as far as I’m concerned these kids have got plenty to deal with already.

She needs nothing else. She needs no one else. She stands apart.

The pace of A Torch Against the Night was something that really struck me. Although its a middle installment, at no point did any of the plot lines feel like filler fodder. Although I guessed parts of the bigger picture as we sped along, I absolutely did not guess the “reveal” at the end and this is all down to Tahir’s fantastic story-telling. She gives us enough info that we don’t feel totally blind-sided when the reveals come along, but also keeps enough just hidden so that we’re hooked to keep going. I liked that all the different plot lines contributed to the wider story arc in some way and the world-building also developed in a way that brings this book and the last together. There’s also something to be said of the events that our protagonists face – the obstacles are relentless and Tahir is not afraid to really up the ante to make sure there’s no coasting through here. Didn’t do my blood pressure any favours though – there were many points where I was so done and I’m just the reader!

If you’re on the lookout for a quality YA fantasy series, An Ember in the Ashes, should be very high up on that list. The only thing is, after reading this book, I realised there’s TWO more books to go still – folks PSA this is not a trilogy.

Have you read A Torch Against the Night? What were your thoughts on the ending? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Bookish Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A_Court_of_Mist_and_Fury_-_UK_CoverA Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Published: May 2016 by Bloomsbury

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Rating: ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄

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*Fans self* phew. Where the frick do I even begin?! A Court of Mist and Fury has coasted its way to my absolute Top 10 books ever (not including HP ofc duh) it is seriously *that* good. Sequels, especially the second book in a trilogy, usually struggle to live up to the first installment, and can sometimes feel like filler material but ohmigosh this book. THIS BOOK. Ahem, OK down to the business of convincing you to read this book if you haven’t already (WHY HAVEN’T YOU ALREADY).

Following on from the events Under the Mountain and Amarantha’s trials, Feyre is struggling to come to terms with her actions. Whilst her fast approaching wedding to the High Lord of the Spring Court is somewhat a distraction she feels stifled by Tamlin and her role in his Court. That is until Rhysand, the High Lord of the Night Court returns to call in Feyre’s end of her bargain with him. As Feyre spends time at the Night Court, she finds things aren’t all they seem, not least of all Rhysand. Learning more about her gifts and understanding more about the Fey world, she meets new friends along the way, and learns more about herself and the oncoming evil threatening her world – one that she might be key to stopping…

And I became darkness, and shadow, and wind.

There are 3 things that are the absolute basic ingredients for the success of any novel: characters, world building, pace & plot and Ms Maas delivers on all three – the bloody gift to humanity that she is. I am in love with all of the characters in A Court of Mist and Fury, from our main protagonists, right down to our secondary characters. Maas has spared no “expense” with her characters and gives them all enough page time and back stories and most importantly, purpose, that they are fully three-dimensional. I adored Rhysand’s Inner Circle – Morrigan, Cassian, Azriel and Amren. Their back stories are well-developed and distinct that the reader cares what happens to them, feels their joy, pain and sorrow and honestly this is just so rare. I loved learning more about Feyre’s back story, seeing more of her sisters and their dynamics, and seeing her grow into the independent and confident badass girl that we get by the end of the book. ACoMaF had a really great message which is that people have scars and imperfections but that this doesn’t stop you from growing or improving. Feyre forges her own path and decides her own mind and hear, even if it means going against the grain, in this book and it really is a joy to read.

The Court of Dreams. I had belonged to a court of dreams. And dreamers.

And for their dreams… for what they had worked for, sacrificed for.. I could do it.

And let’s not forget about Rhysand. The depth of his character is so refreshing – he is not just a pretty face with the sexiest flirty manner. Maas shows rather than tells us that Rhysand is a selfless ruler, who makes the best decisions for his people even if that means being derided and reviled outside of his Court. His loyalty and devotion to his Court, friends and Feyre is evident in his actions. I loved how he was Feyre’s equal, from the serious stuff like the respect he gives her to make her own decisions, right down to their brilliant banter. The slow burn romance was deftly handled by Maas, none of it was rushed or given priority over the brilliant story – just as it should be. ACoMaF was all about setting up the wider Fey world and I think a heavy dramatic romance would have detracted from this. I will say that the character ships are pretty obvious by the end of the book – but that’s a good thing because there doesn’t see to be any damned love triangles in sight 😉

“So what is there that was worth saving at the cost of everyone else?”

When I faced him, his blue eyes were as ruthless as the churning winter sea in the distance. “Everything,” he said.

The world building in A Court of Mist and Fury is just phenomenal. I knew that we’d learn more about Rhysand’s Night Court but wow. I drank up Maas’s descriptions of Velaris, the City of Starlight and the artists quarter. The cameos from some of the other courts, like the Summer Court and seeing the differences between them and the different High Lords, and learning about history of the Fae world just makes it so easy to become totally immersed. The events of the first book is contextualised into the bigger oncoming war against the King of Hybern and everything makes sense – there are no surprises when all the facts fall into place. Sometimes in fantasy genres, there can be some glaring plot holes where the author has taken some creative license in bending the world building to fit the plot but all of the plot lines just come together so naturally in this book. I’m so excited to see how all of these pieces will tie together in the final installment.

I want to rave about so many other things but this has already become a love letter of epic proportions so I’m going to console myself by re-reading ACoMaF again v soon. This book has really set the bar for me for a lot of the fantasy genre which is saying something! Here’s to a painful year of waiting for the next book.

Have you read A Court of Mist and Fury? Do you prefer it to A Court of Thorns and Roses? Let me know in the comments below!

Bookish Review: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Published: May 2015 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Mystery

Rating: ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄

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Behold the 2015 Costa Book of the Year Award Winner! I found out about The Lie Tree after its shock win, becoming only the second time a children’s book has won the award since Philip Pullman’s win in 2001 almost fifteen years ago. The Lie Tree is a murder mystery wrapped up in historical fiction and so I was super excited to get stuck in.

Fourteen-year-old Faith finds herself thrown into a tale of mystery and intrigue when her father dies suddenly and under suspicious circumstances. No one else in her new village seems to agree though, and so Faith takes it upon herself to solve his murder. Amongst her father’s papers she finds evidence that points to a tree that survives on lies and rewards the person who sustains it with hidden secrets. Faith realises that the tree contains the secret to her father’s death and begins to feed it with progressively bigger lies, but she finds that not all truths are easy to bear…

Dead people bled silence

Well what to say about this book? It simply and utterly blew me away. I was totally and completely engrossed in Faith’s world from page one. She is a wondrously complex and inquisitive character and, although only fourteen-years-old, will resonate with readers young and old with ease. She had faults, good intentions, she loved and hated passionately, intelligence beyond her years, and an understanding of the ways of the world and the unfairness of her place as a female within that society. However, she was also naive and desperate for the acceptance of her father. I could literally go on. I haven’t come across a character in a very long time that I was so invested in. She is a fantastically realistic character, bolstered even further by a strong cast of supporting characters.

The rules tinkled silently as they broke

The prose was another delight. Frances Hardinge is a master of the English language and I found myself highlighting loads of passages as I read (grand total being upwards of 30!). The Lie Tree was atmospheric and beautiful in its detail and almost seemed like a love letter to the British coast – with its overcast but evocative weather and eccentric village cast. One thing I really noticed was how imaginative and original Hardinge is in her use of similes and metaphors. There’s a page where the author describes the sensation of taste and it was so expressive that the description left me responding physically – suffice to say this doesn’t happen often and Hardinge’s talent shines through her prose.

And now Erasmus Sunderley would be added to the names of the deceased in the family Bible, another little human life crushed fly-like between its great pages

Although the story is based on an outlandish fantasy object, the Lie Tree, I like how the author doesn’t glorify or overstate the oddity of the plant and its powers. Instead, Hardinge focuses the narrative on an exploration of the human character including the effects of greed and gossip. I loved the insights into Regency society – Faith’s canny and witty observations threw into sharp relief the societal restrictions placed upon women and girls and how she desperately wants to defy these. Whilst the main characters are predominantly male and Faith encounters many obstructions from male characters in her investigation, it is the female characters who are vivacious and strong despite the restrictive rules and conventions of society. Hardinge’s exploration of this, and Faith’s desperation to learn and to be accepted for her mind, weaves through the story but is never heavy-handed. 

Each lady quietly relaxed and became more real, expanding into the space left behind by the men. Without visibly changing, they unfolded, like flowers, or knives.

The story moved along really well – there were no filler scenes with everything that happened contributing to moving along the plot. It was pacy and brisk, meaning that it kept the suspense ratcheted up – important in a book of this genre. I did not see the ending coming but liked it a lot. The only slight critique being that the action was a little hijinks compared to the rest of the novel and was a little jarring. However, it was executed well and did not detract from the overall excellence of the book.

I am not in the least bit surprised that The Lie Tree won the Costa Book of the Year Award. This was a brilliantly evocative story with just the right amounts of intrigue, drama, societal issues and coupled with a fantastic cast of characters. In case my adoration wasn’t evident in the rambling above, I wholeheartedly recommend The Lie Tree and if you haven’t read it already, it’s well worth bumping this up to the top of your TBR list!

 

Bookish Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Published: February 2016 by Faber & Faber

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Rating: ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon

I’m part of the same YA book club as Alwyn Hamilton so Rebel of the Sands has been on my radar for some time. Billed as the “Arabian Nights meets the Wild West”, this novel is the first in a new trilogy and one that sounded really different and exciting.

Amani dreams of having a greater purpose in life and is desperate to leave behind her bitter extended family, who took her in after she was orphaned, and the dead-end desert town that she has grown up in. A talented gunslinger, she’s hoping it’s enough to get her to the capital city of Miraji where she can be free from the constraints of small town life. Her plans are however derailed by the arrival of a foreigner in town who awakens Amani’s desires (romantic and adventurous!) and the two are flung together for survival. But this stranger has secrets of his own and it is not long before Amani finds herself wound up in his mysterious mission and his mesmerizing eyes…

This book was simply delicious. I was really looking forward to reading a novel in an Arabian Nights setting and Rebel of the Sands did not disappoint. Hamilton’s world-building and attention to detail is great and the setting was at once recognisable, familiar enough to ground readers, but different enough to keep it fresh and intriguing. I loved the references to the Djinni fairy tales and the exploration of the spiritual aspect of life in the desert, such as the origins of the world and ideas behind right and wrong. At times, I’ll admit I found it difficult to keep up with the wider world – there were other cities, nations, and political alliances pretty important to the story that I had to make an effort to keep straight but it wasn’t impossible.

Amani was a wonderful character to get to know and follow as she found the world opening up in front of her. She is the ultimate heroine fighting against societal constraints and I loved that she was a balance of bold and loyal but self-critical and unsure – a very realistic 17-year-old. Her smart mouth gave way to some pretty epic lines and made her so badass and impossible not to like. Jinn was also a delight, mysterious but compelling and you can totally understand why Amani found it difficult to abandon him at various points.

Amani’s desperation and need to get away was beautifully explored and was reflected in the barren and vast surroundings of desert that she has been grown up in. At the same time her growing attachment to Jinn felt natural too. It brings to mind the saying that home isn’t a place but a person. I was supper happy that there wasn’t instalove – she totally poisons him at one point in order to put her need to escape first (atta girl!) There were some stereotypical romantic moments  e.g. burning touches and overwhelming ~feelings~ but I can forgive Amani those because 1. Jinn is hot and 2. She is so busy being badass the rest of the time that she is totally entitled to some twitterpation 😉

The pacing in the book was just right and the balance between action and explanation was strong throughout. And the overarching plot was super intriguing that I’m eagerly anticipating the next installment. I read this with half a mind to the fact that it was the first in a trilogy and would most likely spend the majority world building, and setting up the plot for the rest of the trilogy so I was pleasantly surprised when the book finished with a satisfying climax and ending of its own with no cliffhanger in sight.

If you’re at all interested in far-flung exotic lands with badass heroines, yummy love interests and the promise of rebellion, you will not be let down by Rebel of the Sands.

Bookish Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

downloadCarry On by Rainbow Rowell

Published: October 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, Mystery

Rating: ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄

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Rainbow Rowell’s previous YA books, Fangirl and Eleanor & Park are two of my absolute all-time favourites. So it was a no-brainer that I would read Carry On as soon as it was released. We were first introduced to the characters, Simon and Baz, in Fangirl as Cath, the protagonist, is a huge Simon Snow fan and prolific fic writer. In Carry On, we see Simon and Baz get an outing in their own right.

Simon Snow knows two things for certain: firstly, he is the Chosen One to defeat the Insidious Humdrum, the greatest threat to the World of Mages; and secondly, Tyrannus Basilton Grimm-Pitch is his arch nemesis and roommate. Going back to the Watford School of Magicks to finish his eighth and final year, he must figure out how to overcome the Humdrum who is growing stronger by the day, whilst also navigate the pitfalls of growing up. Just in case there wasn’t enough on his plate already, Simon gets sucked into a mystery that could turn the World of Mages upside down. Luckily he can rely on his best-friend-not-sidekick, Penelope Bunce, and his roommate’s mirth to keep him grounded. Except Baz is nowhere to be found and Simon can’t stop obsessing over the infuriating vampire and his whereabouts…

Whilst reading Carry On, it is of course undeniable to note the similarities to the Harry Potter series – the prophesied destiny of the Chosen One, the infamous boarding school and wise mentor, and the assortment of friends and arch nemeses. But I found it refreshing that the World of Mages was very distinct to Harry’s world. Rowell’s magickal world was more in tune with Normal life, with much of the Mage population owning mobile phones and traveling by car.

Rowell’s approach to spells was also really interesting, if a little jarring at times because most of the phrases were so familiar. But this only served to make the things even more hilarious – nothing quite like a climatic scene where the hero begins chanting a nursery rhyme with honest and plucky intent to defeat the villain… Rowell’s trademark humour is clear and present in this book and you will adore the bits in brackets  – the internal converstations of the characters are absolute gems!

The characters in Carry On are compulsively likeable and Rowell has fun with the classic fantasy tropes that appear in fanfics everywhere. Simon, the reluctant hero, may not be the most talented magician in the world but his sense of loyalty and goodness is unwavering. Penelope is fantastic as the “brain”, seeming to know Simon better than he knows himself while Agatha gives us a balancing reality check – it was interesting to come across a character who is not as enthralled by the world of magic as the rest of us. Baz is of course deliciously antagonistic whilst nursing what he believes is an unrequited and frankly embarrassing infatuation for the Chosen One. Simon and Baz’s interactions are what make this book and the chemistry Rowell gives them is every fic reader’s dream (slash fic lovers eat your heart out!) Also, kudos to Ms Rowell for taking the classic roommate setup trope and making it classy af 😉

The plot intertwined a mystery alongside the usual overarching good vs. evil narrative. The novel was told from multiple viewpoints with Simon and Baz understandably getting the most page-time. This worked really well as there’s nothing like trudging through the narrative of an uninteresting secondary character amiright? The varied POVs made the mystery more intriguing and slowly revealed more clues as you read on. Although, I’m not entirely sure what happened during the climax, let’s face it, who was really reading Carry On for the plot? I devoured this book because it was the Harry Potter novel that never was, a “Harry Potter and the Alternative Plot Line”, if you like.

In short, this book was excellent. I remember voraciously reading HP fanfics and trying my hand at a few; Carry On will bring back fond memories of the classic fic tropes and make you want to re-read your favourites all over again (The Bracelet by AkashaTheKitty anyone?) I read this book for the Baz and Simon snark-fest ship and numerous Potter references and if that’s what you’re interested in, you will adore this book.

Have you read Carry On? Do you ship Simon and Baz? Any HP fic recs? Leave a comment letting me know đŸ™‚

Bookish Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Published: February 2012 by Simon & Schuster

Genre: Contemporary, Coming-of-age. LGBT

Rating: ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄ ♄

Goodreads |  Buy on Amazon

I first heard about Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe on Tumblr where everyone is raving about it. I was also drawn to it by the beautiful cover and very unique title. I went into it blind, knowing very little about it beyond the blurb and I think that’s the best way to read this book.

Aristotle is your average 15-year old whiling away summer and waiting for life to begin. Ari, as he prefers to be called, is underwhelmed by his short life so far and also frustrated with the secrets his family seem determined to keep. Being a “pseudo only child” with two much older sisters and a brother locked up in prison, he is comfortable and happy being a loner . All that changes though when Ari meets Dante at the local swimming pool. Dante is unlike anyone Ari has met and the two are polar opposites. But it is from this chance meeting that a very special friendship blossoms, one that changes their lives and helps them unravel the secrets of the universe – the mysteries of identity, family and growing up.

“And me, I always felt that I didn’t belong anywhere. I didn’t even belong in my own body – especially my own body. I was changing into someone I didn’t know. The change hurt but I didn’t know why it hurt. And nothing about my own emotions made any sense.”

Aristotle and Dante is written almost like a stream of consciousness, we are in Ari’s head the entire time, hearing his innermost thoughts. While Ari is not very forthcoming on the outside, his inner monologue is beautiful. He is inquisitive, frustrated, insightful and sad in equal measure but not one bit pretentious. Ari doesn’t seem to realise the wisdom he possesses and is convinced he is lacking in all the ways that matter to a teenage boy. The book’s blurb describes it as “lyrical” and it was indeed lyrical. But, while the word usually denotes something light or whimsical to me, this book was the absolute opposite. It was so, so raw and all of Ari’s thoughts felt and rang true.

“But the worst part was that those words were living inside me. And they were leaking out of me. Words were not things you could control. Not always.”

How to talk about Ari? Ari who is “unknowable”. His narrative voice is one of the most powerful I’ve come across in young adult literature, and not because he’s leading a rebellion against a dystopian state or because he is rebelling against parents or society. Ari is mostly rebelling against himself. He was often truthful to the point of being painful at times, something that is incredibly refreshing and allows the reader to understand Ari’s insecurities. You realise how little of himself Ari reveals to the world and it feels like a privilege to be privy to his complex thoughts. Some of his opinions and thoughts were so wonderfully uncensored and there were points during this book where, I admit, there were tears because it was so moving.

“I thought it might be a great thing to be the air. 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.”

Dante was, simply put, beautiful. His confidence, his vitality was just contagious and you immediately fall in love with how honest he is with himself and his unique approach to life. I won’t say much more about Dante because he really is a delight to read about through Ari’s eyes. The parents and other characters in this book were portrayed fantastically. It was great to see a YA book where the parents are as central to the story as the teens, and portrayed as human, as something to be understood rather than dismissed. Aristotle and Dante was honest in its depiction of the power struggles, the invisible battles, the subtle dynamics of families – the things that essentially *make* it a family.

“There were so many ghosts in our house – the ghost of my brother, the ghosts of my father’s war, the ghosts of my sisters’ voices. And I thought that maybe there were ghosts inside of me that I hadn’t even met yet. They were there. Lying in wait.”

If you need anymore convincing that you should read this book, I clearly haven’t fangirled enough above. This is a great read with a lot of depth and proves the critics of YA fiction wrong. If you’re partial to having playlists for books, Wake Me Up by Avicii would fit Aristotle and Dante perfectly. I couldn’t get the lyrics out of my head whilst I was reading this book.

Have you read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe? What did you think of it? Sound off in the comments below 🙂