Title: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
Written by: Becky Albertalli
Published by: Balzar & Bray, April, 2015
Themes/Topics: Coming out, homosexuality, blackmail, change, friendships
Suitable for ages: 12-18
It’s a weirdly subtle conversation. I almost don’t notice I’m being blackmailed. We’re sitting in metal folding chairs backstage, and Martin Addison says, “I read your email.” “What?” I look up. “Earlier in the library. Not on purpose, of course.” “You read my email?” “Well, I used the computer right after you,” he says, “and when I typed Gmail, it pulled up your account. You probably should have logged out.”
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. (Goodreads)
Why I like This Book:
Simon, is a refreshing mix of sarcastic, sincere, warm, self-depracating and lovestruck. He struggles with self-acceptance and coming out to his parents, who are pretty cool ( a nice change from so many deplorable YA parents.) The story is both a romance and about what it’s like to be a homosexual teenager in a southern town where it’s not so easily accepted. Simon talks a lot about ‘defaults’ and how unfair it is that homosexuals should be the ones who come out, and how white and straight are defaults, and they shouldn’t be. I loved these reflections.
It is definitely annoying that straight (and white, for that matter) is the default, and that the only people who have to think about their identity are the ones who don’t fit that mold. Straight people really should have to come out, and the more awkward it is, the better. Awkwardness should be a requirement.
Albertalli nails Simon’s voice and the adorable email exchange between him and the unknown Blue. In fact all the characters are fulyl believable teens with all their life questions and doubts; teens with whom I’d like to hang. Simon is not only teen-obsessed with his secret email-‘friend’, but he also has a life outside of the budding romance: he has his interest in theatre and music; he has good friends, male and female, he goofs off with his parents and two sisters who love him, and we see plenty of all these interactions as through the story, which adds to the novel’s authentic it flavor. Simon vs.The Homo Sapiens Agenda beyond the romance is about the internal struggles of a sixteen year-old boy who is coming to terms with who he is with his room for growth, and how he deals with the murk of teenage hormonal interactions both from friends and enemies. Misunderstandings, meanness, kindness, mistakes and humor fill the pages with relatable, believable teen lives.
The intrigue of trying to determine alongside Simon, Blue’s identity, is superbly sustained adding suspense to the read.
2 favorite quotes:
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. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.
It’s chilly and unnaturally quiet-if Abby weren’t with me, I would have to drown out the silence with music. It feels like we’re the last survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Wonder Woman and a gay dementor. It doesn’t bode well for the survival of the species.