Thursday, October 6, 2016

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Published April 7, 2015 by Balzer + Bray

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.

I was worried at the start of the book that Simon would be annoyingly neurotic, like a character from a John Green & David Leviathan novel, but Simon ended up being a sweet young man who consciously tries to become more self-aware and be a good friend. So many (perhaps all?) of the side characters are richly developed; they are real. There's no caricature of a "bad guy" - even the antagonist has his own character arc, growing into someone I could sympathize with. I think the author's background as a practicing psychologist shows through in that the dialogues between teens serve as a model of how we should communicate with each other, and in a way that isn't contrived at all.

Great characterization, healthy and realistic relationships between the narrator and his friends, teachers, and parents as well as a discussion of heteronormativity and white identity as an underpinning of society. Lovely, lovely coming of age coming out story.

Rating: 4 Stars

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