Saenz's Complex Teen Read Encompasses Identity, Tough Topics
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
""Something happened inside me as I looked out into the vast universe. 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."
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an award-winning young adult novel... and deservedly so. This book is rich with depth, meaning, and realism. It deals with so many heavy issues in a way that feels genuine and not forced. From PTSD to sexuality to identity, this book is a great one for teens and adults alike because it reminds us to be who we really are and go after our dreams.
Dante and Ari's friendship throughout the novel reveals so many layers to each of the characters. The author does a good job at capturing the feel of teenage relationships in a way that feels natural. I enjoyed the dialogue between the two as well as their quirky families. The characters are memorable in a John Green kind of way. They each have their own personalities and quirks that make them stand out in a world of young adult literature.
The continual symbolism of the the universe and stars was beautiful. The title fits perfectly, and I love it when a book makes you say: "Oh! I get why the title is what it is."
This book is an inspiring read for anyone searching for their identity and trying to mold their own personality in spite of family challenges. This is one of those books you could read multiple times due to the layers of meaning and the symbolism in so many of the lines.
A deep teen read that stands out thanks to its complexity and realism... I definitely recommend it.
View all my reviews
Life is hard. Really hard.
But sometimes love can help us find the beauty in the ordinary and find the strength to overcome pain.
This was the basis for All of You, a story of rescue and a story of hope.
Alex Evans and Marley Jade come from two very different worlds. However, in their late twenties, both characters are floundering with their life paths and what they want.
A crazy accident in the middle of the night brings them together... and they both come to realize that love might be just what they need to let go of the demons from their pasts.
Read on to meet Marley and Alex to see if they're your kind of couple.
There’s a clinking of kayaks, a flailing of body parts, a hitting of my head on something. This time when I’m submerged, it’s not an easy flip maneuver that rights me, because with Alex and his kayak so close, I’m bumping into too many obstructions.
When I kick free of my kayak and surface, I’m gasping again, clinging to the floating kayak and trying to get my bearings. I’ll never get used to being dunked in the water.
Alex comes up from the water sputtering and coughing, also clinging to his overturned kayak. “What the hell happened?” he asks, out of breath.
“I don’t know. I think maybe I leaned too far?”
Realizing we’re both safe, we calm down, still clinging to the kayaks, smiles now painting themselves on our faces. “Of all places,” Alex says. “I almost had to save you again.”
My mouth opens. “Me? You were the one who wasn’t coming up for air. I thought I was going to have to save you.”
“Please. I was a lifeguard. I’m a pro,” he teases.
I raise an eyebrow. “Well, the almost kiss that didn’t happen says otherwise.”
“You’re the one who flipped us.”
“I think it was your fault. Who the hell tries to pull off a kiss in kayaks?”
Alex shrugs, making his way around his kayak toward me, both of us still bobbing in the river. He gets close enough to pull me to him, our kayaks awkwardly clinking at the ends. His free arm wraps around my shoulders, pulling me close. We’re nose to nose, and I almost gasp, not from a lack of oxygen this time, but from the feeling of being this close.
What did you think of Alex and Marley? Feel free to comment below and tell me if they seem like a couple you'd like to read about.
The Greatest Showman Underscores Dreams and Imagination
In a world drowning in depressing news and crushed dreams, I think we all need a little bit of The Greatest Showman.
Starring the amazing Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, this musical follows the story of Barnum’s rise from rags to riches. However, it offers so much more than a one-time hope for gaining wealth. At the end of it, it’s about family and priorities. It’s about love and what matters most.
Clearly, in recent months, there has been some backlash against the movie, claiming it fantasizes too much and makes Barnum into a hero. Admittedly, if you do some research on P.T. Barnum, he was more of a businessman than a family man and advocate. There are certainly some not-so-rosy moments in his past, which the move doesn’t address. You can find out more about what is real in the movie and what isn’t here.
However, if you are willing to understand the movie is based on P.T. Barnum and that it takes creative liberties, there is something inspiring to be found within the couple of hours of singing and dancing.
Let me say I’m not usually a musical kind of person. Sometimes I find it annoying when every characters breaks into song in every scene. I often find the music pretentiously cheesy and not quite something I’d want to pop into the stereo system in my car. The Greatest Showman is different. The music isn’t overdone--songs appear in the movie at exactly the right moment to be musical enough but not over the top. Furthermore, the music is amazing. I’ve been literally humming the songs all week long. The lyrics are beautiful and catchy. I actually bought the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman because movie or not, they’re songs I would listen to regardless.
The storyline itself is also inspiring. The rags to riches trope has been done before, but in this sense, the movie goes a step farther. What happens when you reach the riches from the rags? How does this impact your psyche, your relationships? Like the one song in the movie, “Never Enough,” how do you know when it’s time to sit back and enjoy what you’ve created? This is something Barnum struggles with in the movie, to his peril. It’s something I think so many of us struggle with in a world that values more, more, more. I loved that reminder.
Visually, the movie is stunning. Just stunning. The colors, the dancing, the choreography--it’s simply a pretty movie to watch. Every shot, every camera angle is masterfully done to make the most out of every single moment. There isn’t a single scene in the movie that is boring to look at, which I appreciated it. Thinking about the time that went into the behind-the scenes, which is recognized with an opening by the director and Jackman at the beginning, adds another layer to this movie masterpiece.
The acting was also a five out of five star job. I’ve always had a bit of a crush on Zac Efron; the crush has been reignited. I loved his portrayal of his character, a wealthy man who gives it all up for Barnum’s crazy vision, only to find something even more important: love. The scene with the song “Rewrite the Stars” is by far the most poignant of the film, and a large part of this is because of Efron’s charm and charisma. Jackman also delivers a stellar performance, playing the sometimes selfish and always charming Barnum. His relationships with the other characters in the movie came through vividly. Even though he makes many mistakes in the movie, he has redeeming qualities that allow audiences to fall in love with the character.
There are certainly flaws in the fact this movie perhaps portrays Barnum as a hero when he did things that were not heroic or admirable in real life. However, at the end of the day, the musical wasn’t intended to be a day-by-day biographical account of the man. It was meant to take the culture of the time period and the origins of the circus and bring it to life. It was meant to inspire us to chase our dreams and to find happiness at all costs, no matter who we are.
Most of all, whether Barnum intended to or not, he reminds us all that everyone has a place on the stage and that we have the choice to make that stage for ourselves if the world won’t give it to us. He reminds us that no matter where you come from, you can find your place to shine. You can bring those wildest dreams to life.
So 100% true or not, I think this film underscores a human truth many of us have forgotten and need to hear again.
Have you seen The Greatest Showman? What did you think? Find out more information on their Facebook or go see it today.
As Huffpost Contributor Platform Shuts Down, I Say: Thank You
As a Huffpost contributor, I can honestly say it's a sad day, no matter how rational or reasonable the decision is.
You may have heard that the Huffpost contributor platform was shut down today. For writers like me, it's a sad day. This platform allowed writers both big and small to write pieces and post them on Huffpost's website. From there, Huffpost reviewed posts and decided which to categorize, promote, and share with the world. Over the past year, I've been fortunate to have many articles promoted, including on the front page. It's been a wild ride that I'm so sad to see end.
My journey with Huffpost began over a year ago with an article called"Prince Charming Doesn't Exist." On a whim, I emailed Ms. Arianna Huffington herself to pitch my article about love and marriage. I was new to blogging and the world of news. I was a published author who wanted to spread my message about simple romance, about real romance. Arianna gave me that chance, complimenting my piece and giving me an in to the Huffpost Contributor Platform. I was ecstatic.
Over the years, this platform has meant so much to me, a small writer trying to share her words. I've been able to open myself up to the world and to share ideas with so many. I've written about being a childless adult, married life, simple love, teaching, and so many other topics. I've learned how to interact with others online, how to improve my writing, and how to connect.
I want to say this above all today: I am forever thankful to Huffpost for this opportunity. You allowed me to grow as a writer. You helped me find confidence in my voice and my message. You gave me more than just a platform to share my ideas--you gave me faith in myself as a writer that I had ideas worth spreading. I will forever be grateful for every article you promoted, every front-page placement, and every opportunity to share my words.
I won't lie... I'm devastated that starting today, my sharing of words will look different. I was always proud to see the Huffpost emblem on my words. Still, I know all is not lost. I have the confidence to go forth and share my writing, to talk about what matters to me, and to share my visions. I will just have to find a new place to do that.
So again, thank you Huffpost for the opportunity and for the platform. I'm sad to see it go, but I know all change is hard. Who knows what opportunity this will bring next for you, for me, and for all of the other contributors who called your platform home for years.
Lindsay Detwiler, Author
Hey! I hope you’re having a great week!
Are you ready for a romance that’s full of depth and complex characters? All of You isn’t your typical guy meets girl story. It’s a story of gut-wrenching tragedy, meaningful encounters, and most of all, hope.
Take a peek below and meet Marley Jade, the most complex protagonist I’ve written to date, and see if All of You might be your kind of book.
Don’t get ahead of yourself. You don’t know him that well yet.
And it’s true. My head is holding me back. Those sparks between us feel so nice, so inviting. But the truth is this guy could turn out to be a serial killer—although it seems unlikely since he did save my life. He could have a ton of baggage, or he could decide my baggage is too much. To him, this late summer romance could be a fling of desperation. Those looks, that lust I see in his eyes could just be his manhood talking and not his heart. This is all happening too fast.
I’m not usually this easy, really. I’m difficult and reserved when it comes to love. I’ve been burned so many times my heart is warped. Still, something about those eyes, about his voice, lures me in. I’ve only spent a few hours with him, but it’s like this indescribable force within wants me to know more. Something tells me he could be just what I’ve been looking for. The dependable to my instability, the calm to my crazy. He could be the rational to my let’s get lost mentality, and the reality to my dreamer-like state. He could be the hand beside me, the encouragement to do more. He’s the one who will rein me in when I get too out of control but let me be free when it’s time to fly after those dreams.
He seems like just what my life is missing.
But just because I want it to be true, just because I’ve painted the scene in my head of us together, doesn’t mean it’ll work. He’s from California, a goal-oriented realist who got stuck in this place. I’m just a small-town nobody going nowhere slowly. I’m a rebel without a cause, a mess, and a dreamer without any wings at all.
What do you think of Marley Jade from All of You? Does she sound like a realistic character to you? Feel free to hit reply and let me know and, if she does, add Goodreads to your reading pile.
Win a Literary Lover's Prize Pack
Are you a literature lover? Do you want to start the year off with this fun prize pack, including a huge Book Nerd mug?
Head over to the pinned post on my Facebook for a contest that's super easy to enter...and super fun to win. Join my tribe in celebrating sweet, genuine love stories for your chance to win this gift pack.
Have you ever felt like your past won’t let you chase your happiest present or future? Are you stuck living in a moment that you can’t forget?
For me, writing All of You was about more than just a romance. It was about the fact that sometimes our lives aren’t clean slates, and we don’t all come from picture-perfect pasts. Too many times, I’ve read about characters who seem to have it all together, or who have problems that seem either too hard to relate to or too simple.
I wanted to portray a different reality, one that’s a little bit more intense but a whole lot more real.
All of You is about the idea that we all have demons haunting us, some bigger than others. We all are held back sometimes by preconceived notions about us, our lives, and what we should do. We don’t always chase what we want in life because sometimes we just feel like we can’t.
This book is about how we can overcome the demons of our pasts and the ideas about ourselves that hold us back. It’s about how sometimes love can actually help us do that.
Through Marley and Alex’s story, I found an inner truth I’ve really come to believe: The best kind of love helps make you the best version of yourself. Marley and Alex’s vulnerabilities help them open up to each other and become even truer, happier versions of who they are. It is their love story that opens up new possibilities. It is their love that helps them shut the door on expectations, on the past, and on the pains they both know.
Real life is messy, complicated, and complex. These are the words I’d use to describe Marley and Alex. This is not your typical, nice-and-neat love story. It has rough edges. The characters are gritty and raw. There are heavy complexities and sometimes a paradoxical feel to who they are.
But Marley and Alex, through all of their difficulties and struggles, taught me that life isn’t a nice-and-neat package--but that’s okay. It is through struggle and complexity that we can uncover our own truths and that love can take on a new meaning.
Do you enjoy reading realistic love stories even if they’re a little heavy and complex? Feel free to hit comment and tell me what you think of a complex, emotional kind of love story.
A Look At All of You's Marley Jade
I’ve come to learn one thing over the years of being an adult: Life is so hard. Truly.
When we’re young, we picture everything working out exactly as we want. We set out our life plan, picture our rosey vision for the future, and feel like the pieces will all fall into place.
Sometimes, though, that’s not what happens.
Whether it’s hauntings from our past or unexpected hurdles that surface, our lives are never, ever a perfect path to happiness. Suffering, hard choices, sadness, and pain are all a part of the human experience.
When I sat down to write All of You, I’d just finished writing the first book in my beachy series, Lines in the Sand. I love writing romantic comedies because it’s fun to explore the humor in life and expand upon it. However, as a writer, I also pride myself on not being one-dimensional. I want to capture real life, which means that for every romantic comedy, somewhere deep within is also a romantic drama.
Marley Jade from All of You is a very different character than so many of my female protagonists. She’s got a heavy past, probably the heaviest I’ve written. Her life is scarred by relics of a past she can’t quite get over. Like so many of my characters, her twenties aren’t exactly what she had pictured for herself. However, unlike my other characters, Marley Jade feels trapped by loyalty, responsibility, and the ensnaring power of her past.
Marley Jade was the first piece of the puzzle in writing All of You. As I started writing for Hot Tree Publishing Rescue Me collection, I knew for a fact that I didn’t want to just write about a physical rescue. I wanted to tackle something a little bit bigger and somewhat more taboo in our world-- I wanted to tackle the realism of a mental and emotional rescue. I wanted to highlight that in real life, the emotional and mental rescues are sometimes even harder to endure and to pull off.
More than that, I didn’t want Marley Jade to be the victim or the rescued. Sure, she has her issues. However, I saw in her a resilience and a strength I hadn’t detected in any of my other characters. In her signature red hat and somewhat wild sense of fashion, she exudes confidence in a way only those who have survived the unsurvivable can.
Alex Evans saves Marley Jade in more ways than one… but he is also saved by her. Living a serious life dictated by familial expectations and pressure, Alex doesn’t even realize he needs saved from a life that isn’t his own.
As Marley and Alex’s characters developed, I realized that there was a simple beauty in their love story that wasn’t in any other book I’d written. Out of the wreckage of sadness that swirls in this book came a love story more beautiful, more powerful because it was such a contrast to the heavy moments presented.
All of You isn’t a light read. It deals with hard issues and topics we don’t always like to talk about. However, for me, that’s what makes this a book I’m proud of. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s true to life.
Scroll down to read the blurb for All of You and see if this sounds like your kind of book. Feel free to hit reply and tell me if Marley and Alex’s love story sounds like your kind of read and if you’re ready to add it to your Goodreads TBR list.
All of You Blurb:
There’s no such thing as impossible when it comes to saving the one who holds your heart.
A sexy doctor who’s restricted by expectations.
A quirky poet who’s defined by her dark past.
All it takes is Alex Evans saving Marley Jade one fateful night for their futures to be realigned. And when a passion sparks between them, they must decide if they can piece each other back together and make love work.
Visit me on Facebook for more info about my next release, All of You
To All Women Hoping For Big Changes In the New Year
Some years are harder than others, both personally and as a society.
For many, 2017 was a tough year. Whether it be some of the major tragedies occurring in the world, stark realities about injustice in our society, or personal turmoil, many women are ready to say farewell to this year and start fresh.
It seems that with the switching of the calendar to a new year, the feeling of a blank slate is a given. For many of us, January 1st is the start of new promises and visions for a brighter year. We’ve got 12 months left to prove to ourselves we can better our lives, find more fulfillment, and uncover joy we were maybe missing in the previous year.
I’ve found that many women are seeking big changes for 2018, which can be an inspiring thing.
Some of us are searching for fulfillment in new careers. Some of us want to get right with our health and our bodies. Some of us crave self-acceptance of who we are.
Some of us are looking for stronger senses of spirituality, of joy, of appreciation. Some of us need to find a new relationship or a new sense of purpose. Some of us are seeking love and a cure to loneliness.
Many of us are looking for big changes in social views, political truths, and cultural values.
In truth, many of us are searching for big changes in some aspect of our lives... the question becomes: How do we make those big changes we are seeking a reality?
When the confetti has settled and the champagne from New Year’s Eve is gone, how to we make sure our midnight vows to ourselves materialize in the coming year? How do we find the strength to clutch tightly to our dreams for 2018 long after we’ve flipped to January on the calendar?
For so many of us, the fear of failure stares us in the face. Any change in life comes with risk, and many of us are so afraid of failure that we don’t even try. For so many women especially, failure feels like the ultimate death of a dream and the ultimate thing to be avoided.
Nonetheless, I’ve come to learn this over the years: Failure isn’t always the riskiest thing in life or the worst possible outcome. Sometimes, it is the status quo that truly threatens our success, our fulfillment, and our true purpose.
A stagnant life can be even less fulfilling than a life full of failure.
So to the women looking for big changes in 2018, whether they be personal, social, or global, I give you this advice:
Find your voice.
Find your courage.
Find your passion.
Above all, don’t settle for the status quo, and don’t settle for another year of the same.
And, when we prepare to say goodbye to 2018, whether you’ve achieved your goals successfully or whether you’ve tried and failed, the key will be that you discovered the bravery to chase your dreams. You found the strength to go after what you wanted, and you were wise enough to recognize when change was needed.That will be the thing you hang your pride on when you leave 2018 behind.
These are the qualities a fulfilling life is built upon. As one of my favorite authors, Jojo Moyes, wrote in one of my favorite books, Me Before You:
You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.My wish for you in 2018 is that you go out and live your life as fully as possible, chase those changes you are seeking, and find a way to support the other women in your life who are also looking for a brighter, better year.
Happy 2018 to you. May you be brave enough to chase those changes you want most of all.
Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author with Hot Tree Publishing and a high school English teacher. Learn more about her works and her dedication to sweet, genuine love stories by visiting her blog.