To All the Boys Who’ve Had to Learn to Play By Different Rules

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June 15th. Today marks the date Ari and Dante first met in Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s multi-award-winning Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which is absolutely beautiful, in all senses of the word. It is a breathtaking and breathtakingly poignant story of two Mexican-American boys who learn the wonders and power of friendship. It is a story where I learn the wonders and power of words.

One can argue that with the love of reading comes the awareness that words have power. That they have weight and that they can impact our daily lives, ranging from the trivial ways we view waffles to the grand, life-altering moments of finding out we all eventually have to adult. We’ve always had stories and stories always matter. But up until Aristotle and Dante, I didn’t fully buy into the adage. I was raised in a community where boys have to follow a specific set of rules, much like the two leads in the novel. And like Ari, I felt like a fraud. I felt small. I felt inadequate. I was scared of many things. I was scared of my own narrative, for one, and believing in the power of words would mean that I have to face my truths. And boy was I afraid of my truths. But Sáenz made me face them, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. He made me feel that it was and is okay to feel all these emotions. He made me feel that it was and is okay to be me.

Obviously, I can go on and on and on for days, gushing over this book and how much it means to me. But I figured I’d honor Ari and Dante by writing to all the boys who’ve had to learn to play by different rules, just like how Sáenz felt the need to write Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

You’re scared. That’s okay. We all are.
You care. Too much. That’s okay, too.
Boys aren’t supposed to like other boys, they say. Boys aren’t supposed to like kissing other boys, they say.
And so you feel ashamed of your thoughts. You feel ashamed of your emotions.
You run.
You run away.
Convinced that if you didn’t say it out loud, it can’t possibly be true.
You bottle all the love inside you. All that is beautiful inside you. Because the world is cruel to boys who are different, and you are different.

But you’re only a boy. And boys, like girls, like any other human being, can only hold so much.
And I need you to stop.
I cannot let you remain silent and silently crying.
I cannot let you go on, feeling locked into yourself, exhausted by all that you keep within.
I cannot let you discount many unrequited loves and heartbreaks because you’re too damn afraid.
I cannot let you repeat the same mistakes that I, myself, made.

So this is me telling you it’s going to be fine.
This is me telling you you’re not alone, even if it feels that way.
This is me holding your hand because I know you made—and are making—it hard for other people to do so.
This is me telling you something I wish someone had advised me when I was younger: I pray you find the courage to be true to your heart. No matter what.
And, although even I doubted this before, this is me assuring you you’ll find love. And support.
You’ll always find love and support.
I’m rooting for you.

I picked up Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe in 2014; I was twenty-one then. I am twenty-four now and openly gay.

HAPPY ARI MET DANTE DAY, Y’ALL! ❤ What are your favorite Ari and Dante moments? Did you post something to celebrate today? Link me up! Also? If you’re obsessed with this book like moi, do check out Bobby’s fan art over at Junk Knight because he’s AMAZING. #brbswooning Give some Ari and Dante love in the comments below!

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RIP Novel: A Letter to the Dead

Novel,

I am sorry that for the longest time you felt like everyone’s attention and affection were directed at “the Kidult Boywizardsroman and the Soft Sadomasochistic Porn Fantasy.” I am sorry that more and more people are going out with Rubbish YA. I am sorry that your friends think “the hallmark of our contemporary culture is an active resistance to difficulty in all its aesthetic manifestations, accompanied by a sense of grievance that conflates it with political elitism,” because obviously, depression, suicide, rape and child abuse are all easy subjects. I am sorry that these elitists are so dismissive, and maybe, just maybe, the same can be said of the other camp. But that’s besides the point, isn’t it? Your friends now claim you’re dead.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a certain beauty to you, Novel, there is. But not everyone has the luxury to spend their days with you. Some people are going through shit in their lives and the last thing they want is to be critical all the time and power through long, verbose passages. And for most, that’s not even it. Some get some and some don’t, you know what I mean? Rubbish YA understands me; she understands what it’s like. And right now if I can pair someone with a Book and make him/her feel understood, that’s all I’m going for.

So I apologize if “those who reject the high arts feel not merely entitled to their opinion, but wholly justified in it.” Because, fuck that. We read because we read. However, whatever, whenever. I don’t think anyone has to feel the need to justify what he/she reads.

Cheers,
Not-So-Serious-and-Mostly-Young-Adult Reader

PS. I don’t believe you are really gone.

PPS. The children are all right.

*****

NOTE: The quotations were taken directly from this Guardian think piece, written by Will Self.

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