Beautiful Books: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli

From the back cover: 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 with, will be jeopardized. 

As his email correspondence with Blue grows more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. 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 stayed up until 2:30 in the morning finishing this book, even though I had to get up at 3:45 to drop my kids off at school for their eighth-grade class field trip.

It was totally worth it.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda starts you right in the the middle of the blackmailing conversation, and I like that. Sometimes the best way to get to know a character and his world is to just fall into step beside them.The book alternates between narration and email exchanges between Simon and Blue. Simon is an excellent narrator–he fills you in along the way, catching you up where appropriate–and he’s wonderfully frank and mouthy.

I love reading YA in part because I think it’s the most important part of our development as individuals, and teens deserve our very best in support, honesty, and compassion.

That’s one of the issues in Simon’s story: does he have his parents’ support and compassion? Would it really be safe for him to come out to them, especially the way his dad makes gay jokes? Blue wrestles with the same question, and during their emails, the point comes up that it’s not fair–because it’s really not–that only gay people have to come out. Why do we (as a society) assume straight as a default setting? Why can’t everyone have to come out?

Since they both want to come out, eventually, they talk about it. It’s important, and something they can ideally plan a little. How do Simon and Blue each want to do it? How do they think their families will react? And what would being out mean for each of them? What are the anticipated repercussions? What are the benefits?

Speaking of repercussions–as expected, Simon’s attempts to play wingman for Martin don’t go as smoothly as Martin would like. (Blackmail can have a negative effect on your wingman’s enthusiasm. Imagine that!). In the meantime, Simon tries to figure out who Blue might be—because even if he’d rather not come out to the whole world, Simon would like to go on an in-real-life date. Between Simon, Martin, all their friends, and everyone’s romantic interests, there is a lot of flirting. (I was pretty sure they were all flirting with the wrong people.)

I also figured something out about myself as a reader: I like a little romance. Not Romance (as in heaving bosoms and throbbing members) but romance, as in the sweetness and excitement of flirtation: from shy glances, half-smiles, and the soft pressure of a tentative hand on your shoulder, to awkward first kisses and full-blown make-out sessions.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda provides a perfect amount of romance, as well as a full-sized dose of the drama Simon would rather avoid—because in life, drama refuses to confine itself to the stage.

 

For May 3: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

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