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.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaFeaturedHot
Everyone, aka Lindsay Ribar and Dahlia Adler, told me that Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was a Christina book. While I totally love this, it also makes me nervous. What if I let them down? And Becky’s a local author, so disliking her book could be totally awkward and angst angst angst. I worried for absolutely no reason, because freaking obviously Dahlia and Lindsay were all sorts of right, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is just the cutest freaking book.
First off, I love Simon. His voice is absolute perfection. I didn’t quite instalove on his narration, but I actually love that too. Simon takes time to open up to people. He’s not the easiest guy in the world to get to know, because he really doesn’t like having people all up in his business. While popular and friends with most everybody, Simon’s a bit reserved and judgmental. He’s a sweet guy, but he’s also stubborn and swears a lot, which also makes me love him even more.
The reason Simon’s so secretive, even with his best friends, is his family. He loves them, but they’re also overwhelmingly interested. I empathize, Simon. He holds information back because people make such a big deal about it and it really makes him nervous. The family dynamics are truly perfect, though. The whole family is so loving, which doesn’t mean perfect obviously. The parents are very present and do things like grounding their kids. Also, the family traditions like Facebook status hunting and Bachelorette viewing are so adorable.
Then there are the friend group dynamics. Simon’s closest friends have always been Leah and Nick, but, lately, Abby, a transfer, has become part of the group. It’s thrown off the dynamics in a big way, especially since Leah likes Nick, who likes Abby. Simon, in his typical way, is trying to avoid the drama getting to him, which in turn causes problems. Establishing groups of friends and actually giving all of them screen time is really tricky—there’s a reason most YA characters have a singular friend—but Albertalli really pulls it off. The tension between Abby and Leah is especially well-handled; it could easily have felt like girl hate, but it’s way more than that.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is framed around Simon’s email romance with a mystery guy he calls Blue. For about five seconds, I thought that was the guy’s real name and was doing some serious side-eye, but it’s all good. The rapport between Simon and Blue via email is super adorable. Though Blue doesn’t want to reveal his real identity, they also open up about a lot of stuff they don’t feel comfortable telling anyone irl. It’s so much easier to talk to people online, and that really makes their flirtation work.
The two talk a lot about coming out. Simon‘s sort of about that, but I’d say it’s more about finding yourself in general. Simon and Blue do come out over the course of the book, but it’s not a huge deal. I also like that Simon talks about how revealing anything new about himself feels like coming out, and that really everyone should come out, because there’s no reason to assume someone’s straight either. Albertalli also touches on the way that casual jokes that aren’t meant to harm can really be upsetting in Simon’s relationship with his dad. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is most definitely a fluffy romance, but it is also designed top open eyes and make people consider how heteronormativity continues to be an underpinning of society.
Simon, in trying to figure out who Blue is, checks out a lot of guys. I love this. He has someone he’s mentally chosen to cast as Blue in his fantasies, but he’s basically got minor crushes on several people. This is so true to my own teen experience and in YA characters are so often only into THE ONE. The dynamics in this book are just spot on. Also, I called the ship immediately and I was right and it was beautiful.
Finally, remember how I mentioned Albertalli’s a local author? I actually even picked this book up free at Decatur Book Festival last August. Anyway, it’s set in Atlanta, which is a special pleasure for me. I particularly delighted in the comment that this one kid has a southern accent and how weird that is. People from most anywhere else are always asking why I don’t have an accent. The novel also reflects the diversity I’m used to seeing in my daily life. Similarly, I think the reaction to Simon being gay fit pretty well with Atlanta and what things were like in my high school.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is so good that I spent the last half of the book literally yelling AWWWW at it out loud. This is not necessarily normal behavior for me. *shoves Simon at everyone*
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.
Going into reading this book, I wasn't sure what to think at first. I knew it was getting a lot of hype and the cover really intrigued me but the hype made me nervous. But I ended up really loving this book. It was funny, easy to read, the characters were amazing, and I loved the e-mail exchanges between Simon and Blue.
It didn't take long for me to love Simon. His voice was great and I loved seeing how he grew throughout the book. He was hilarious. There were so many times I was laughing, loudly, while reading(not a good idea to read this when people are sleeping). He was a well-rounded character, he didn't fall into the cliche were his sexuality was the only thing ever mentioned about him. He was in the school play, he liked Harry Potter, he played Facebook scavenger hunt with his family, he loved Oreos.
There were so many amazing characters in this book. Simon's family, his parents and two sisters, were so much fun. Even when Simon acted annoyed at their antics, it was so easy to tell that they were a close, loving family. His two best friends, Nick and Leah, and newer friend Abby, were all very different from each other. They were close but they would fight, like friends do, and things would be awkward or uncomfortable, but they had each other's backs. Also, Simon's drama teacher was amazing. By the end, I really wanted to applaud her.
Blue, though he was mostly present only through the e-mails, he was such a huge part of the book and Simon's life. The e-mails were a great way to the reader to get to know Blue, to understand why Simon was falling for him, without having to reveal who he was before the climax.
Those e-mails, I loved those e-mails. They were an important part of the story. Sometimes they were lighthearted, sometimes they were flirty, sometimes they were full of angst and drama. But they all pushed the relationship between Simon and Blue forward. In the end, I did want to know who Blue was, but I knew I would be fine with whoever he turned out to be because Simon was already in love with him. The e-mails did their job of making me want them together even without knowing Blue's identity.
It was impossible to keep a smile off my face while reading and I have no doubt a smile will appear whenever I think of Simon. It was that kind of book and he was that kind of character.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.