Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseI love books about smart well spoken teens.  Benjamin Alire Seanz’s characters Aristotle and Dante are deep and emotionally interesting characters.  The two meet at the pool when Dante offers to teach Aristotle to swim.  Neither one has any real friends.  Over the summer they grow into a deep friendship where they discuss matters of the universe and books.  Not your typical teenage boy dialogue.  The book explores male friendship in a meaningful way. It is only when they think they might lose each other that the author reveals how deep this friendship goes.  The boys both of emotional journeys that help define who they are and who they become.   I loved this book up until the end.  I felt the ending was too tidy and that Aristotle made this change a little too quickly.  The parents are very supportive in this book which is a nice change from many teen books I read.  This book definatly deserved the Printz Honor.  It is very well written and the story and characters are well developed.  If you want a thoughful book about two extraordinary characters, this book is for you.  It might have you question you own thoughts on secrets of the universe.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss, “Words were different when they lived inside you.” (pg 31)
Discuss, “Fifteen-year-olds don’t qualify as people.” (pg 8)
Do you think the world is a dark place? (pg 19)
Discuss this passage, “Through the telescope, the world was closer and larger than I ever imagined.  And it was all so beautiful and overwelming and – I don’t know – it made me aware that there was something inside of me that mattered.”
Why do you think Dante didn’t run when he was attacked?
What do you think Dante’s parents expected of Ari when they asked if he would always be his friend?
How do you think learning about his brother changed Ari?
How do you feel about the way their relationship evolved at the end?

Best Book To Read While Waiting For The Catching Fire Movie

Pure (Pure, #1)Partridge and Pressia live in two different worlds.  Partridge lives in a Dome, protected from the holocaust of bomb detonations outside.  His body does not have any scars and is in perfect shape.  Pressia lives in the real world where everyone has visible scars, burns and has things fused to them that they were near during the detonations.  Pressia has a doll’s head fused to her hand and burns on her face.  Partridge does something no one else has ever done.  He escapes the Dome to search for his mother.  He thinks of her as a saint who tried to help others and didn’t make it to the Dome on time.  She might still be alive.  He has to know for sure.  But his escape comes a little to easily as he finds out why the hard way.  He is being watched and why would they let him go?  Pressia is hiding from the OSR, the troops that are organizing an uprising.  When she turns 16 she will be forced to join them or become live target practice for new recruits.  While running she meets Partridge in the street.  She agrees to help him and takes him to a local underground leader named Bradwell.  Bradwell has living birds fused into his back.  The OSR wants her to be an officer, but she can’t understand why.  Each of the characters in the ashen world have something, or an animal or someone fused to their bodies.  Each are horrifying and imaginative.  The characters are multidimensional and interesting.  Partridge and Pressia have a connection that readers will not see coming.  Julianna Baggott is a master world builder.  She creates two dystopian worlds that are different but equally disturbing.  The two things that freaked me out the most were the dusts.  The people fused to the earth who prey upon the living by pulling them into the earth and feeding on them.  But the most horrific were the mother soldiers who have their children fused to them.  Both child and mother are alive, but the child cannot grow because the mother’s body cages them.  The story is brilliant, fast paced and very well written.  I highly recommend this for fans of dystopian teen lit.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss El Captian and Helmund.
Did you think Partridge was meant to leave the Dome?  Did someone set him up?
Discuss this passage, “The world, as awful as it is, seems like it’s better off with Bradwell in it.”
How are Bradwell and Partridge different or the same?
If you could have something fused to your body what would you want it to be?
Why do you think Partridges’s father left his mother behind?
Discuss this passage,”What ever was in the cage is gone now,” Bradwell says.  “Maybe it’s better off,” Partridge says.  “Let loose, freed.”  “You think?” Bradwell says.  Partridge isn’t so sure–to be in a cage or loose in this world.  This is a questions he should be able to answer.
Discuss the part where Pressia thinks “at least she’d die in a warm coat.”  What does that coat represent for you.  What would you grateful to have like that?
What did you think the wife in the farmhouse meant when she told Pressia she would try and keep her from harm?  Discuss Ingership’s desire to be civilized.  Why would he eat that food knowing it would make him sick?
Talk about the dusts.
Would you rather live in the Dome or the real world?
What did you think of Partridge’s mother?
Discuss what happened with Sedge?