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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

February 10, 2021

That’s where I found Blue’s post. It just kind of spoke to me. And I don’t even think it was just the gay thing. I don’t know. It was seriously like five lines, but it was grammatically correct and strangely poetic, and just completely different from anything I’d ever read before.”

Simon Spier is gay, but he hasn’t come out yet. The only person he can talk to about it is Blue, the pen-name of another sixteen-year-old boy who goes to Creekwood High. Simon and Blue have been emailing back and forth ever since the August before junior year, when Simon found Blue via a social media post and felt he just had to know him. Through their emails, they tell each other the big, important things about their lives, but they’ve chosen to stay anonymous, at least for now—with secret email accounts, pen-names, no clues about who their friends are, or anything overly specific about school. 

But when Martin Addison logs onto a school computer after Simon, finds his secret email account, and is cruel enough to take a screenshot, he threatens to reveal Simon’s sexual identity to the entire school. All Simon has to do to prevent this is help him land a date with Abby Suso, who happens to be one of Simon’s closest friends. For Martin Addison, this seems like no big deal. But to Simon, everything—and everyone―he cares about most is at risk. His junior year just got a lot more complicated.

In Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli writes from Simon’s incredibly well-crafted perspective. Readers will feel as if they are in the head of a real teenage boy. Nothing about the tone is ever robotic, forced, or stiff. The audience will love the honest, humorous, socially- and emotionally-aware voice of Simon. He is observant, with a clear and strong perspective on his world. The chapters alternate between Simon’s first-person narrative and his emails with Blue. This is a strategy that I haven’t seen in many books, but in this case it’s extremely effective, as the reader learns more about both boys through their intimate, heart-warming, and often hilarious email chain. There is playful teasing, countless jokes, ingenius typos, and effective all-caps usage between Blue and Simon that keep the emails fresh, funny, and interesting. Because readers don’t know Blue’s real identity, these chapters give readers a chance to learn about the way he feels: Simon and Blue are always truly honest with each other.

And they aren’t the only strong characters in this book. Martin, although readers will be upset with the way he acts, is developed well; he has a distinct personality, and visibly grows throughout the narrative. Nick, Leah, and Abby are some of the best friends a reader will find in a contemporary realistic fiction novel. Nick is caring, funny, and a complete constant in Simon’s life. Leah and Simon’s relationship is perfect because they fully get each other. There is nothing forced about their friendship. I loved the bond between Abby and Simon because they only met at the beginning of the school year, and they are already super close. Abby is gentle, kind, easy to talk to, and always knows how to cheer Simon up when he’s upset.

Simon’s parents are also crafted well. In some young adult books, these characters are just there because the protagonist has parents, but in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, they have their own well-crafted character development. Something that Simon struggles with is that he feels like his parents have a set idea of who he is, and if anything about him changes it’s always this super huge deal. Simon’s sisters, Alice and Nora, are also exceptional characters. Nora is quiet, but shows huge love for her siblings, and Alice is an incredible big sister who Simon and Nora both adore. It’s refreshing to read about siblings who have such strong relationships. 

Readers will never feel bored or wish to skip ahead while reading. This is because the problem is introduced on page one, the chapters aren’t too long, and as time goes on, Simon and Blue continue to grow closer—and both Simon and the reader will be aching to find out Blue’s true identity. Readers will find themselves constantly guessing at who he might be, which will result in a completely satisfying conclusion, executed just right.

Albertalli has an amazing eye for detail, clear from reading a few sentences of her novel. Every new setting is described in a fresh, original way, and I found myself often thinking, Huh. People do that all the time, because not only does Albertalli have great sensory diction, she is also aware of the way people act, and that shows. This is reflected in the dialogue as well, which is realistic, funny, and mirrors every character’s individual personality.

Albertalli has written a variety of other titles, including Leah on the Off Beat, which is the phenomenal sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, starring Simon’s best friend, Leah, and Love, Creekwood, a third book in this series. She’s also authored What if It’s Us, co-written with Adam Silvera, and Yes No Maybe So co-written with Aisha Saeed. I would recommend anything by Albertalli, even the titles I haven’t yet read, because she is just so good. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was also made into a movie that came out in 2018, called Love, Simon. It stars Nick Robinson and has gotten many good reviews. I am eager to watch it soon.

This story deals with many themes, including romance, sexual identity, friendship, and the importance of doing the right thing. Personally I believe that all of these themes are important to learn about, and it’s exciting to read more books with LGBTQ+ protagonists written by an author who is skilled at giving them a voice. I have learned a lot from entering into the head of Simon Spier, and I think anyone who picks up this novel will, too.

I would rate Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda a ten out of ten and recommend it to anyone twelve or older—it does have a fair amount of swearing—who enjoys books with romance, a bit of mystery, an abundance of humor, and a protagonist you can’t help but love.

Isabelle

HarperCollins Publishers, 303 pages


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