Book Review – Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli

I read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda hot on the heels of Dumplin’, and I’m glad I did. It prolonged that sense of feelgood nostalgia that had me looking back on my high school years and how much they changed me as a person. That’s not to say that they were great years – in fact, there was a lot of awful stuff that went on – but they certainly were formative.

I never found it easy to make friends. I was always receptive to new people, but not great at going out and engaging them. It’s something I’ve gotten better at as I’ve worked at it over the years, but when I was young, it was nigh impossible. Like the protagonist Simon Spier, I had a small group of close friends. In Simon’s case, the dynamics between himself and his friends Nick and Leah has been complicated by the addition of newcomer Abby. A once comfortable arrangement has become a little terse and awkward, a situation Simon sometimes struggles to navigate.

Theater nerd Simon has been exchanging emails with the mysterious Blue, another gay student at his little Georgia high school. The catch is, he doesn’t know who Blue really is – but he desperately wants to find out. Things are further exacerbated when he’s halfheartedly blackmailed by classmate Martin, who’s stumbled across Simon’s emails with Blue. Simon’s troubles are, for the most part, relatable – he struggles with his sense of identity at odds with how others have always seen him, coming to terms with aspects of himself that he’s not quite ready to share with the world yet.

Identity is a major theme throughout the novel. Simon isn’t the only character struggling with their place in the scheme of things, or keeping secrets. The world seems so much simpler when you’re young – you think you know all there is to know about yourself, and the people around you. Like Simon, we can all remember what it felt like when we began to realize that we were wrong.

Writing LGBTQ romance can be a tricky thing, in large part because the “queer experience” is so varied. I remember being hurt when a favorite writer depicted a character’s sexuality as yet another misfortune laid at his feet, just something else that made him weird and “different.” Perhaps because my own experience was so similar to Simon’s, I found it almost refreshing. His identity isn’t portrayed as the end of the world, a battle to be fought or a misfortune to endure. He accepts himself, and even dealing with the (sometimes negative) reception of his queerness isn’t made out to be the defining conflict of the novel.

I rated Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda 5/5, a rating I don’t give lightly, though it might look like I do given how many great reads I’ve come across lately. I’ve been on a reading roll, haven’t I? It’s a good feeling, and it’s made my upcoming transition to a new job just a little easier to swallow. I’ll be reading Ruta Sepetys’s Out of the Easy next, though there’s no telling when I’ll finish, considering that I’m a week out from my move. I just hope this momentum can power me through everything that’s in store for me, next!

 

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