Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (April 7, 2015)
Page Count: 320 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Young Adult; Contemporary/Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5
I’ve seen this book on a dozen “must read” lists, and now I know why it was on there. This book was hilarious, brilliant, witty, and jam-packed with everything that makes the YA genre one of my favorites to read. Drama, angst, geekiness and more surround a teenage boy’s struggle to decide if he’s ready to come out to his family, friends, and classmates.
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
1. Do you like young adult fiction with unique, interesting characters?
Simon and his friends are fantastic, quirky and well-rounded characters who add to the novel instead of just serving as filler. They’re a diverse group of teens, each with a fully formed personality. The story is told from Simon’s point of view, so through his eyes we get hilarious and insightful looks into the lives of his friends and family.
I love Leah. Love love love. She has her own ‘coming out’, in a way, with her own problems that Simon struggles to understand. But she’s a great balance for Simon’s over-the-top strangeness; she’s down to earth, realistic, and a rebel where Simon tries to fit in and be ‘normal’.
Leah avoids my eyes. “I made you a mix,” she says, handing me a CD in a clear plastic case. You can load it onto your iPod when you get home. Whatever.”
I turn the case over in my hands. Instead of a track list, Leah has composed what appears to be a haiku:
2. Do you like coming out stories that are also coming of age stories?
Simon isn’t ashamed of being gay. In fact, he constantly wonders why gay people have to ‘come out’, when straight people don’t have to do the same. It’s frustrating, for the world to assume that you’re straight until you inform them otherwise. But Simon isn’t ready to come out just yet.
Coming out, and the significance behind it, is a major theme here. By blackmailing Simon, Martin basically strips Simon of his right to come out when he’s ready.
But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.
Coming out stories are becoming more popular in the YA genre, but this one stands apart from the crowds.
3. Do you like sweet romances?
Through emails, Simon and Blue’s relationship evolves in a really lovely way. I was laughing over and over again (and craving Oreos like you wouldn’t believe!) because of their back-and-forth exchanges. And Albertalli did a great job of slowly unveiling the mystery identity of Blue, in a way that was realistic for the reader and Simon both!
With the anonymity of the internet, Simon (under the pen name Jacques) and Blue are able to get to know one another without fear of repercussion. It means their friendship turns to romance slowly, as they learn more about the other’s likes and dreams and personalities, and it makes the relationship feel so much more real.
I know it’s stupid, and honestly, at this point, I spend about half my waking hours imagining us meeting in person for the first time. But I can’t think of a way for that to happen without everything changing. I think I’m scared to lose you.
4. Do you like novels that are about more than meets the eye?
I think this book isn’t necessarily about coming out as gay, but about coming out as yourself. Simon and Blue go through a lot of indecision and fear as they try to find the courage to reveal their sexuality, but all of the characters are going through something similar. In the end, Albertalli isn’t telling a story to help gay high schoolers get the nerve to come out of the closet, she’s telling teenagers that they should be true to themselves.
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