Summary: I’ve got seven days to come clean to my new dad. Seven days to tell the truth…
For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.
Characters. We actually met a LOT of characters in this book but I think going through all of them or even mentioning would kind of ruin you getting to know them as Tiffany does so I’m not going to do that.
Tiffany Sly. She is our protagonist and our narrator. She just turned 16 and is traveling to California to live with a father she’s never met. In the first chapter, we learn that she is terrified of flying, and also terrified to meet Anthony Stone. She has anxiety and she’s always worried about things that could possibly kill her. Irrational fears and what not. She is very nervous about meeting her father, but she’s also a bit in doubt since not long before she departed, another man came to her home, thinking he might be her father and he wants her to take a DNA test. So she’s thinking about that, plus, the other man is going to serve her father a court order so she has to take a DNA test and she’s thinking about that time frame. Seven days to confirm who might be her father. She marches to the beat of her own drum, she doesn’t conform, at least not completely, she does try not to test the waters, but she can’t help but to speak out against certain things she finds ridiculous that her new family does. She’s easy to befriend Marcus, even though he did come off as weird in the beginning and everyone freaks out about him, but she was pretty easy about it. She’s from Chicago, so she tries really hard not to be a stereotype in this new place, that’s also majority white. I really liked Tiffany, there wasn’t anything about her I didn’t like. She’s super tall, so of course people assume she likes and/or plays a sport but she’s into music. I loved her “nerdiness” and just how it was just natural and a part of her and not something shocking because she’s a black girl into what she’s into.
Anthony Stone. He is a potential father for Tiffany, but he is the one she’s going to live with. We don’t really get to meet him until the second or third chapter, and he’s interesting but also seems very detached and I did not like him, mostly in the beginning. I softened up to him more towards the end, but it was a hard journey. I felt like Tiffany when it came to him. She was kind of awkward with him, but unsure if he could be her father, especially once she meets him and sees what he looks like. There are moments where it feels right, where you wonder “Wow, maybe he is her father” but then he does something outrageous and you’re like “NO! He can’t be her dad!” I mean this dude has some pretty ridiculous moments, but he’s also kind of tragic in ways. A lot of things that dealt with him made me cry, especially at the end. Oh man. I had so much whiplash with him but I think Dana L. Davis wrote an interesting man.
Marcus McKinney. Definitely my favorite character of the book, he’s definitely a secondary leading character but I loved every bit with him. When we first meet him, I was a little unsure to what he was doing, or what he looked like because of his description but it becomes clear later. It does take a while to learn what is up with him but I think that’s part of his charm as well. He doesn’t care anything about what other people think about him and he just lives his life because it’s his to live. There is something different about him and Tiffany doesn’t really pick up on it until later, but she never makes a big deal about anything. Marcus doesn’t either. He became a great friend for Tiffany and she for him. He wrote a book in the book and I actually want to read his book.
Realistic Dialogue. I definitely have to give Dana L. Davis praise, because the dialogue in this book was very realistic. Especially for the teenage characters. I always complain when I read certain young adult books because it seems like the authors don’t really understand how teenagers respond to things, or how they speak to each other. Sometimes it comes off really pretentious or childlike and just ugh, but Dana L. Davis does it so well. Tiffany sounded like a true 16-year-old teenage African-American girl. The conversations she would have with her grandmother on the phone, with her best friend, even the conversations she would have with London and her other sisters. It just really flowed well and it sounded genuine instead of generic and awkward. I mean outside of Tiffany being awkward in general.
Humorous. I laughed quite a lot reading this book. The dialogue is so funny, and the interactions between characters is always entertaining. The book is told in Tiffany’s point of view, so we get a lot of her inner thoughts and her reactions to things, her irrational fears, her though processes, or her telling us how other characters are looking at her, or reacting was very funny. Also, Marcus being so enigmatic as he was, was also pretty funny too and he did it without trying it was just part of his character. Also, Neveah is maybe where most of the humor comes from when it comes to dialogue. That little girl will say whatever it is she wants and doesn’t find the problem with it.
The Family Dynamic. Tiffany’s mother passed before the events of the book, she is still very hurt from it, but she has hope, since she is going to live with her father in California. She’s never met him so it’s a first anyway, but I think we see of the family is pretty interesting. I don’t necessarily agree with what the Stones do, or even believe in, I think it’s a little extreme, but that’s how it is for some families and I appreciate that the book really touched on that. Their family was dysfunctional and they tried to pretend like they weren’t. I always find that very interesting because there is so many options to explore. Also, when Tiffany gets added to the mix, it’s very weird and awkward at first, but as the book progresses, the women of the family, well some of them, really become a strong lifeline for her, or her for them. It was a great natural progression.
Very emotional. I cried. A lot actually. The book deals with death and grief, and loneliness and family, and abandonment and I can understand a lot of that. I’m definitely not going to get into anything, but I do think if you’ve lost a parent, or someone you were close to, this would really hit home for you. Also, Tiffany has anxiety, among other things and seeing her deal with that, or dealing with her father who doesn’t believe in that kind of stuff, it’s hard and challenging but the way it’s handled is really beautiful. I think the end, the last few chapters are what really got me, especially after the trip in Malibu. Oh man, I can imagine if you don’t cry but don’t be surprised if you do.
Thought provoking. Marcus McKinney is a fantastic character, probably my favorite in the story but he is so smart and his beliefs are truly amazing. I’ve never met anyone like him but I can imagine I’d befriend him as well. He’s a bit odd at first glance, sure, but the way he thinks about God and energy, I was like “he’s legit” and I actually feel the same way in some instances. I talked about it with my coworker the other day and we both were like “so deep”. I mean, I really thought about it while he would explain it to Tiffany. Plus, there was something special about him anyway, so he felt like a pure person.
Unfinished Plotlines. I do think there is a lot that happens in this book. We get a lot of information and while I do think the book handles a lot of it really well, I do wish it would have gone a bit deeper, particularly with Pumpkin. She apparently she’s on the spectrum and at first I thought it was just something the mom made up, or they thought because they didn’t know how to really parent her outbursts, but the mom does try but nothing else really comes of that. Not that it had to be a big part of the story, but since it was brought up and since it was something Tiffany was around, I thought we should have seen more of that. Also, with London, there is something that happens with her and it does kind of become a little big something, but it kind of just ends. It was kind of strange to be honest.
Overall, I really loved Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now because it felt like an authentic story. Tiffany was a realistic teenager, she didn’t feel like an adult’s view of a teenager which I appreciated. I loved her interactions with other characters, and how she just marched to the beat of her own drum, she didn’t care because it was who she was. She loved her music, she loved the idea of what a father would be like to her and I think that’s all beautiful and so realistic for a teenage girl whose never had a father. I thought while complicated, Anthony Stone was a great character and someone who I ended up really liking and thinking was tragic by the end. Marcus was my favorite and I just want to sit and speak with him and also read his book. It’s funny, it’s emotional, it made me go “TELL EM AGAIN GIRL” and I finished it in a day so I loved it. My only real negative was that I felt there were a few storylines that didn’t get wrapped up as easily and I thought about it afterwards. But regardless, fantastic story.
Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars.
What I’m reading Next:
Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Released: February 21, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I had to do a bit of soul searching after finishing this book. I really wanted to like it more because a co-worker recommended it to me and she just loved it. I adored Eleanor & Park which I had just finished reading at that point and she put this book on my shelf. It sat there for a while before I finally decided to read it. So because of her high recommendation, I was expecting to really like this. The cover is also beautiful.
Beautiful cover. I mean look at it, it’s definitely eye catching. Book covers help pull readers in. This one definitely does that.
Character of Aristotle. I liked him for a few different reasons. He was an angsty teenager, which can either go positively or negatively and for the most part I liked him. I mean, understand that he was also really annoying too at times, but he’s a teenager who is an internal person, he kind of sort of gets a pass. While he was the one mainly telling the story, he almost remained a mystery to not only the reader but to himself. He’s very much a loner, lives with his parents and two older sisters and has a mysterious older brother who is in jail. Over the course of the book, Ari grows up but pretty much remains his own person. Until the end which I will get to later.
Aristotle and Dante’s friendship. I love to read young adult novels that feature two characters exploring their friendship. I had no idea what this book was about outside of reading the inside flap so I was expecting a story about two teenage boys who are complete opposites but manage to find solace in each other’s friendship. Which is what we get in the first part of the book. They meet because Ari goes to the swimming pool to escape his family’s silence but he cannot swim, which is weird, but Dante notices and offers to teach him. It begins that way. They also connect over the “silliness” of their classical names. They spend the entire summer together, Dante is the loud one of the pair and he just talks and shares his poetry while Aristotle just listens and experiences Dante’s boldness and just overall eccentricities.Their families are even different (though they all eventually become friends), Dante’s parents are loving and involved, which surprises Aristotle that when he goes over to his house, it’s almost like a complete shock. Eventually summer is over and Dante is moving to Chicago so their friendship comes to a dramatic end almost.
Shared moments with his father. I think his father was the only other family member I actually liked. He was a Vietnam war veteran and he’s very similar to Aristotle. He’s silent. Of course Ari feels shut out from his father because of this, but at the same time, he thinks it’s their only form of communication is that they’re silent together. I actually kind of liked that. Later, his father opens up to him more, he shares with Aristotle the truth about his older brother which allows for a bit more closeness.
The Parents. Very supportive people, I was pleasantly surprised to see just how great these parents were. Sure, Ari’s dad was a bit far to reach but when he and Ari begin to understand each other, it’s all good. I really loved the mothers, especially when they were together. There’s also this great character addition of this dog “Legs” whom I also just loved to pieces.
The talk of identity. YA books are full of identity searching which can include a lot of things. As the book continued, it was obvious to me that Dante was gay and that he was in love with Ari, whereas I was thinking Ari’s discovery was that he was angry for being left behind by his family, for being kept out of family secrets, for feeling alone and that he could actually be happy about his life once he finds a way to talk about it. Dante worries that his parents won’t accept his choice but the do as they love their son, Ari accepts it as well because duh Dante’s his best friend, his only friend but during this time period, not everyone is going to which is okay. There’s a parallel with Aristotle’s aunt who passes away, Aristotle’s extended family didn’t all show up for the funeral due to the aunt’s lifestyle which causes Ari to think and be sad for her.
A big struggle is also Dante dealing with his Mexican heritage. He often questioned and struggled with it. It was pretty interesting.
Slow. The beginning was extremely slow. It took forever for me to really start getting into it. I’ve always loved to read and I’ve always chosen books that sucked me in pretty quickly. It’s very rare that I read a book and it takes me a long time to even get started. This book started off so very slow to me that I it took me a long time to really get moving. I would read a few chapters, put it down for a while, read a few more chapters and it really began to irritate me because I was already bored. It picked up in the middle.
The Plot. Still, after a long time, I’m not sure it actually had one. I mean, it had moments, and things it talked about but if I had to actually describe the plot of this book to someone, there’s no way I could because… what exactly is the plot? That’s problematic.
Dialogue. Sometimes YA books come off a bit pretentious and tedious to me. These were 15-16 year old boys in the 80s. Their dialogues, especially with each other, I thought was strange. It was trying too hard to be deep and meaningful and I didn’t feel it. It wasn’t natural. t didn’t know they were supposed to be teenagers, I would have assumed they were college students set in current times. Just too contemporary. Of course, teenagers don’t sound like idiots, at least not all of them, but I think some authors forget how teenagers talk and act (Looking at you John Green). They’re not adults yet. Allow them to be teenagers because while adults read YA, mostly teenagers read these books.
The sudden introduction of Aristotle’s sexuality. As I said before, it was obvious that Dante was gay and in love with Ari. It wasn’t like BAM but it wasn’t completely subtle either. Which is fine. I thought it’d be interesting to have two male best friends, where one is gay and the other is straight and they’re okay with being friends. There wasn’t any hint, at least to me, that Aristotle felt the same about Dante, that he was hiding it. The book was in FIRST PERSON! Shouldn’t there something in his head if he EVER thought that? He read everything he thought, even if he did hide it later, we at least knew about it. If there was cues that he thought about it, or that he wasn’t sure how he felt then it’d be different but he never showed interest. He wasn’t jealous when Dante talked about kissing or being with other guys, he didn’t seem to care, he just accepted that his best friend was gay. When Dante wanted to kiss him, Ari refused and seemed very uncomfortable with the idea, even though Dante was being rather pushy about it. They kiss but Ari even says he felt nothing which hurt Dante’s feelings. The only time anything was ever indicated was when Ari was infatuated with a girl at school and was obsessed with kissing her.
What made it worse is the fact that the adults seemed to force what Aristotle should be feeling on him. There’s a scene where Dante tries to help a bird that is in the middle of the street, Ari saves him and is extremely injured. So, the doctor was so sure that he did it because he cared for Dante more than just a friend. I remember thinking “Okay… what’s your point? If Ari thought he could save him then does it have to be more than that? Especially if this is the first time he’s had a friend?” Even Ari was confused as to what he was trying to indicate. Then his parents literally sit him down and pointed out all the reasons why Aristotle loved another boy: He beat up some kids who beat the crap out of Dante, he saved his life from the car and that he did both of those things without hesitation. I’m sorry, but why? If this is supposed to be a self discovery of identity why have adults tell this kid how he feels and that he should feel it? If he doesn’t, then he doesn’t. Since this is towards the end of the book, the positivity I was feeling started to deplete. Again, I wouldn’t have minded if it was a gradual realization for him but it wasn’t. It was so random that I thought that reveal was damaging to the character that was built upon throughout the story.
The ending. The ending shouldn’t be something that I dislike about a book but I feel as if the author was grasping at straws in the last third of the book. After Ari’s sudden realization (In my mind it’s still bull), moments happen and finally Ari and Dante take Ari’s truck to the desert. Dante tells Ari he can’t be friends with him anymore due to his feelings for him that aren’t reciprocated. Ari tells him how he feels and that he lied about how he didn’t like the kiss before and now it’s all great! Let’s kiss again! Ari asks Dante to kiss him but Dante refuses and insists that Ari does it this time which he does. Now they’re together in the bed of the truck and Ari goes through a few last thoughts: wondering why he was ashamed in the first place to love Dante? (probably because it wasn’t true until his parents made it true), realizing that he loved Dante all along and that he found the secrets of the universe in Dante (which I understand discovering who you are thanks to the influence from someone who seems more “well adjusted” in life than you but again bull) and now everything is perfect. *rolls eyes*
Overall, I really wanted to like it. So many good and glowing reviews, the beautiful cover, the ‘ohmigosh it’s so beautiful! It’s so honest!’ bleh bleh bleh… outside of the beautiful cover, I don’t see it. It had it’s moments but I can’t say I liked it those moments enough to vouch for the rest of the novel. There isn’t a plot, it drags on for sooooo long, there are very few likable characters (it’s really subjective) but if you like someone then I think it’s easy to remain attached to them for the most part, the dialogue is nice at times but for the most part it’s pretentious. I really disliked the ending and I didn’t like the “twist” either. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is not a book I would probably pick up again to read but I would kind of recommend it as the journey will be different for someone else.
3 out of 5 stars. A half a star for the cover most definitely.
Similar books with identity themes, coming of age, LBGT, etc:
Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (superior to Aristotle & Dante)
Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan (meh)
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
Hero by Perry Moore