I loved Simon's friends. He actually has far more than the four friends he claims, and they all absolutely adore Simon. Garret and Bram, the soccer dudes, while infrequently mentioned, are well-defined and interesting characters. Leah and Nick, the bffs since childhood, have surprising nuances and develop quite a lot over the course of the story. Abby is a powerhouse of a best friend, but even she isn't infallible and makes some mistakes.
Simon's family is fascinating. They're nothing like the typical YA contemporary romance novel family. And this is a romance, make no mistake. Simon's parents are just the right mix of strict and quirky. His sisters have their own lives, completely separate from Simon's world, and we discover their secrets and watch them change at the same time Simon does. Even Simon's golden retriever is an interesting character that adds to the overall aesthetic of his family's world.
The romance between Simon and his email boyfriend, Blue, is heartache wrapped up with a shiny red bow. I just couldn't get enough of their pining, angst-driven, honest feelings. Simon and all of his friends are incredibly authentic and real. The author simply nails Simon's voice, like she were a teenage boy herself. Simon's interactions with his friends brought back the best memories from my own high school experiences, and that was completely unexpected. While Simon and his friends, especially Leah, so fight sometimes, it's totally natural and they work through it in the end. Albertalli is one badass debut author, who kicks ass at writing completely natural and authentic teenage characters.
However, I wanted more emails, in a more authentic style. I was disappointed with the emails between Simon (code-name: Jaques) and Blue. They were too short, without enough feeling, and there weren't enough of them included in the story. Sure, there was a sense that the reader wasn't privy to all of the emails Simon sent, but it sure felt like there wasn't much more going on. I remember from being a teenager how emails I sent to friends (especially friends I had crushes on) would be long, rambling accounts of my internal struggles and feelings about pretty much everything and everyone. There just wasn't enough obvious feeling in the writing of the emails, there wasn't enough angst, and so they felt inauthentic. Regardless, the emails created an interesting format and added a lot of depth to the novel.
The verdict: Simon Spier's junior year of high school is a fantastic and funny adventure reminiscent of Andrew Smith's WINGER. Highly recommended for readers looking for a heartfelt slice-of-life romance.