Book: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Genre: YA, LGBT+
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.
I have heard a lot of praise for this book recently, particularly after I read Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited last month (see my review here), and I knew I needed to read this one! I purposely went in without reading the synopsis because I wanted to discover the story organically without any clues about I was about to read. I will say – the book lived up to the hype!
This was the first male/male romance I’ve ever read (well apart from the fic in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell), and I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to feel. I tend to read more female/female romances, and I don’t think I’ve yet read any in the YA genre (but I’d really like to, if anyone has suggestions on anything kind of similar to this!) I really surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it. Jaques and Blue’s interactions were adorable and I read all of their emails with a big smile. I loved that they communicated solely via email and got to know each other without having a clue who the other was, even they both attend the same school. I had some ideas of who I was hoping Blue would turn out to be and without giving anything away I was happy with the way it ended.
Simon vs. was absolutely filled with loveable characters. Simon was quirky and relatable and easy to root for. Blue was brilliantly written, which is especially impressive as the only view of him we got was through his emails. I thought Abby and Leah were great and loved every single member of Simon’s quirky family. I can’t wait to see their movie counterparts! And speaking of characters, I loved the small links between Simon vs. and Upside. Having read Upside first I already felt like I knew Abby a little and I enjoyed getting to know her more.
I loved the way Simon talked about coming out and I completely adored this thought:
“As a side note, don’t you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I’m just saying.”
This book address coming out so well, and though ‘coming out’ is often made out to be one big life-changing event, it’s not. Coming out is a constant, something you do over and over again. The first time I came out was to my mom, 5 years ago. That was the hardest, the first time I’d told someone. But it was FAR from the last time I’ve had to come out. Each time I meet someone new, I essentially come out again. I even have to come out to strangers on the phone, such as the man from insurance company who called after my wife got in a minor fender bender, gave me her name and asked ‘is that your mum?’ (He got very flustered when I said ‘No actually that’s my wife.’) This is not something straight people have to go through. They don’t have to declare or justify or explain or constantly correct strangers when they ask about their husband. Simon is absolutely right, why is straight the default?
I discovered my sexuality much later in life than Simon, so I really appreciated reading about his experiences dealing with everything that came along with realising you’re gay in high school. This book was so wonderfully written and was probably one of the most ADORABLE romances I’ve read. It was just so sweet and fills the reader up with sunshine and smiles. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this book had Harry Potter references galore!!
To Becky Albertalli, I say: