TITLE: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
AUTHOR: Becky Albertalli
RELEASE DATE: April 7, 2015
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction, LGBTQIA
PAGE COUNT: 320
With surprising heart, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda teaches that everyone’s journey is valid and private. I grew invested in characters who represented many aspects of my teen experience, and taught me empathy for experiences beyond my own.
Until recently, Simon’s secret was safe with his online pen-pal, Blue. But when his classmate blackmails him with screenshots revealing he’s gay, falling in love with Blue over email gets a whole lot more complicated.
I want to be up-front that I’m not normally a fan of fluffy romances. However, Simon vs. is not cute-for-cute’s-sake. This book is heartfelt and honest, touching a personal chord with me by reflecting the insecurities I felt at Simon’s age. Forging one’s identity – regardless of sexual preference – is a long-term struggle. Throw in the hormones, the thrill of firsts (first car, first drink, first love), and how at this age every mistake feels like the end of the world, and you have a relatable emotional roller coaster. While these themes inhabit hundreds of YA books, Simon’s experience felt real to me. Becky Albertalli has all the right ingredients to make her readers invested.
Plot & Character Development
I put the heart and soul of Simon vs. down to the fact that the characters drive the plot instead of the other way around. We’ve all watched and read stories in which gratuitous external events manipulate the characters and force them to react. However, the events in Simon vs. are character driven – their inner desires, doubts, and misbeliefs motivate them to change and grow. These realistic tensions between characters – as well as inside them – result in conflict and growth that feels authentic.
For example, take Leah, one of Simon’s closest friends. In the grand scheme of the plot, Leah has little bearing on Simon’s character arc. However, she is fully developed with idiosyncrasies, desires, and misbeliefs that lead her headlong into conflict with Simon. While arguably this isn’t vital to the story, I love how Leah’s character helps us to learn more about Simon, and for him to grow even more. This leads me to another thing I love about Simon vs. – the secondary characters are so well-developed that they act like they’re the heroes of their own stories – at the axis of their own universes. Not only does this reflect real life, but all these self-driven characters help reveal layers of Simon’s personality.
Intimacy, Privacy, & Wrong Assumptions
I loved reading Simon and Blue’s relationship develop. Their emails to each other are windows to their souls, offering a glimpse of their hearts that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Simon describes his and Blue’s online relationship as getting to know each other from the inside out – the opposite to first impressions based on a person’s appearance. I shared in Simon’s nervousness and excitement as he grows more vulnerable and intimate with Blue.
He talked about the ocean between people. And how the whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to – page 18
A theme that really resonated with me is wrong assumptions. Every minute of every day, we are busy making assumptions based on social stereotypes – we assume a person is by default “straight” until he/she comes out; we assume skin colour correlates with social status; we assume that boys and girls, straight people and gay people, look and act a certain way. Besides challenging our cookie-cutter perceptions of others, Simon vs. reminds us that other people’s personal journeys are none of our business – we have no right over another person’s identity. Simon’s story explains how it feels to be the target of wrong assumptions and judgments. This book fosters empathy and understanding by taking us on an emotional journey.
Like the way you can memorise someone’s gestures but never know their thoughts. And the feeling that people are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows. The way you can feel so exposed anyway – page 18
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is adorable and entertaining at the same time as emotionally impacting. The characters are well-written and empathetic, inviting readers into their minds and lives. This is a gorgeous book for new readers of YA who want to discover LGBTQIA in fiction.