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

simon vs homo sapiens agendaSixteen-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.

Review: 4/5

Totally worth the hype. I ended up smiling like a loon.

While the book is rather pop-culture heavy, and plays a bit into the gay-theatre-kid trope, those are my only complaints. (Although it could have been longer … Simon would totally make a dirty pun out of that… but I shall rise above… SOMEBODY TAKE THE KEYBOARD AWAY FROM ME.)

AHEM.

While the book definitely had its adorable moments, especially in the back-and-forth emails between our anonymous gay duo, there were also a number of thought-provoking comments.

But there was something so familiar about the way Blue described the feeling. It was like he had pulled the ideas from my head. 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. 

&

Nothing is worse than the secret humiliation of being insult by proxy. 

&

But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again. 

And the downright hilarious, because we’ve all been there:

And Leah’s also into slash fan fiction, which got me curious enough to poke around on the internet and find some last summer. I couldn’t believe how much there was to choose from: Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy hooking up in thousands of ways in every broom closet at Hogwarts. I found the ones with decent grammar and stayed up reading all night. It was a weird couple of weeks. 

I could also identify with Simon’s theatre group camaraderie – my school drama class united a group of people who otherwise wouldn’t have given each other the time of day (or maybe just a nerd like me, le sigh), and some of the most hilarious moments from high school took place amongst that strange group of people.

And by cake picnic, I mean drama kids hunched over the box like vultures shovelling cake by the fistful. 

Cake, man, cake. Has the power to unite the masses.

I also appreciated the fact that Simon eventually realised that while he was wrapped up in his own drama, his actions ended up hurting a number of people, like close friends Leah and Abby. While it was unintentional, Simon doesn’t even realise that he’s using them until it’s pointed out.

I know that a lot of gay kids don’t have support systems as great as Simon’s, but I was glad for Simon that he did. (Obviously there is a place for this fraught literature because coming out is such a huge obstacle for so many people, but it’s nice to have a happy, fluffier alternative as well.) His parents were well-meaning, his sisters were pretty cool, and he has a group of friends that stick by him despite the shitty mean people at school, and their antics once his secret is revealed.

All in all, Simon is a well-intentioned character, if sometimes misguided in his actions, and it was so much fun to watch him fumble his way towards a happy ending and some personal development.

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12 thoughts on “Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli

  1. I honestly cannot wait to read this. I’m listening to I’ll Give You The Sun at the moment, and I have to say I’m amazed by the exploration of a young man’s sexual identity. From what I’ve heard, Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda will not disappoint either 🙂 Excellent review.

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    1. As soon as it was released on Tuesday, I popped onto Amazon to get my ecopy. (the practicality of getting the latest physical copies to where I live is, well, not practical at all.) It’s a great book – not the most deep and meaningful novel ever written, but light and funny with some nuggets of wisdom and insight. Enjoy!

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  2. Terrific review! I can’t wait to read this one sooner rather than later. It’s sitting on my Kindle right now waiting for me to finish a review book lol. I’ve recently read Black Iris by Leah Raeder and Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz that deal with female sexuality so I’m looking forward to a male voice next.

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  3. Having read so many wonderful reviews about this book, it’d only make sense that I picked it up this week. I adore stories that talks about someone’s journey into finding themselves. Simon sounds like he did, and with the help of a supportive group of friends. No too many kids has that nowadays, unfortunately.

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  4. This does sound like a thought provoking and emotional novel, everyone’s been raving about it – I hope I do like it as much everyone else, wonderful novel 🙂

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  5. I’m so happy to see how this is such a positive novel overall! I’m glad that it features an LGBT character with a great support system, because it’s kind of an awareness too to other people out there that acceptance is the key, and that they could be great supports to people they know too who are being shamed for what and who they are. Amazing review, Hannah! I can’t wait to dive into this book myself. The hype is legit.

    Faye at The Social Potato

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    1. Yup, I love it when a book lives up to the hype – seems to happen few and far between these days! I think depictions of positive support systems are so important, especially for kids who read the book who might not have them. It was such a lovely, feel-good read.

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