“People really are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows. And maybe it’s a good thing, the way we never stop surprising each other.”
In Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Simon Spier’s junior year is thrown out of whack when one of his classmates stumbles upon his anonymous e-mail exchanges with a boy who dubs himself “Blue.” Martin, the classmate in question, threatens to reveal screenshots of their conversations to the entire school if Simon refuses to set him up with one of his close friends. Unfortunately, this would also reveal to the entire school that Simon is gay. And that just isn’t something he’s ready for. Reluctantly, he agrees to Martin’s blackmail, but he soon finds out that this situation isn’t going to go away so easily.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is told through a first person narrative, and having Simon speak directly to the readers was a definitely a good choice on Albertalli’s part. After reading only one page of the book, the first thing I noticed was how distinct and snarky Simon’s voice was. This hooked me immediately, and I imagine I’m not the only one.
The other characters took a while to remember and relate to. There is a large and fascinating cast of them, but trying to keep up with all of their names and personalities at the beginning was slightly overwhelming. This does mirror the high school experience, in a way, but it is still a bit much to process. Once you hit the middle and begin remembering who is who, you’ll end up adoring most of them. And even the ones I didn’t like as people (Martin, the blackmailer, for example) were unique and had a lot of depth as characters.
Simon’s e-mail exchanges with Blue were my favorite parts of the story. This was one of those rare moments where I actually found myself caught up in a YA romance, but I have zero regrets over it. Their conversations are outright bizarre, and they’re all the more adorable for it. Albertalli did a good job of building the chemistry between them, and it kept me looking forward to their next interaction.
Despite being a light and humorous read, this book also covers some genuinely important topics. And while I can’t speak directly to the LGBT+ representation, Albertalli presents thoughts on coming out that I’d never really considered before. For example, Simon often debates why straight is the “default” when it comes to sexuality. No one ever bothers to ask their kids if they’re straight or gay, and straight kids don’t need to come out. He questions why this isn’t something every person should have to do, and frankly, he makes a good point.
There’s also a lot of focus on the fact that coming out is an incredibly personal choice, and one that should be left entirely up to the individual doing it. This book, for obvious reasons, deals with the topic of “outting” other people and what this means for them if they aren’t ready for it. It takes the power and decision making out of their hands and leaves them vulnerable. Having never witnessed or (obviously) experienced such a thing, it was an eye opening subject to read about.
Again, I can’t directly speak to the LGBT+ components of this novel. So I’ll link the reviews of people who can. Reading While Queer and George Lester both offer insight that is worth checking out, so go do that.
My main complaint about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is that the first 100 pages are pretty slow, as they’re busy setting up the rest of the story. It took quite a while for me to get through the beginning, but once I hit the halfway point, I finished remainder of the book in a single evening. I also predicted who Blue was about halfway through, but I kind of liked that Albertalli dropped the hints that she did.
I gave this one a 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. It was light, humorous, and still managed to tug at my emotions and make me think about things from new perspectives. I’d recommend this to YA and romance fans (and especially fans of the two mixed together).
Oh, and a quick suggestion before you go: Do not read this book hungry. Becky Albertalli has a knack for describing food. Especially when it comes to oreos.