Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Review copy from Edelweiss

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.

My thoughts:

Say hello to a new addition to my “favorite books ever” list and be prepared for a long, gushing rant about why I loved Becky Albertalli's brilliant debut Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda so incredibly much.

We are introduced to Simon who's a high school junior. He is fairly popular, has a tight group of friends and an awesome, slightly weird, reality-tv obsessed family. But there's a part of him that he has not told about to anyone, except to a mysterious boy called Blue that he found from the school Tumblr blog. Simon is gay, and though he knows that there's nothing embarrassing about it, he is not quite sure how to tell the whole world about it. So he starts to email Blue who's in a similar situation and they find a connection that Simon has never felt with anyone before. But then one of Simon's drama club buddies finds out about Simon's sexuality and takes screen captions of the emails Simon has been exchanging with Blue (what a douche, btw!) and Simon finds himself from a situation in which he does not quite know what to say or how to act. Simon is pulled into a whirlwind of emotions, revelations and feelings and the eventually it seems like the only constant in his life are the emails from Blue.

Simon is such a great protagonist. His life is generally okay and he has a place within his own little community of people, but at the same time, he does not quite feel like the people around him know him fully. He is sure of his sexuality, but at the same time, he is confused about how he should act around others and how things would change if he were to come out to his family and friends. It is so interesting to follow Simon around, to really get into his head and to see the world through his eyes. Simon is funny, extremely relatable and simply a pleasure to read about. Throughout the novel, he feels so real and honest, more like a friend than a fictional character and very quickly he became someone I felt very protective about and someone that I started to deeply care about. The way he can be honest about himself in the emails he exchanges with Blue just made my heart burst from happiness. They are so in sync without even knowing who they are writing to and the way they can trust each other is very admirable. The exchanges between them are like ones found from extremely good 90s romantic comedies, ones that slowly establish the relationship and really savour in the connection between the two people. Because really, the connection between Simon and Blue is MAGICAL.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is a love story between two incredible, honest individuals who fall in love under unusual circumstances (though I guess Internet love is getting more and more usual these days). The fact that they happen to be gay just makes this book so much more beautiful, in some sense, because of the all the stigma and prejudice that still surrounds these issues. I did not see their romance as more valuable or more special because they are gay – I saw it as valuable and special simply because they are so good to each other and so honest about the ways they feel. Yes, this could have been a novel about a boy and a girl and I probably would have enjoyed it too, but I don't know, just the way these two characters connect in an environment in which they are bullied and looked down to made me so incredibly happy.

Albertalli is such a good writer. I mean seriously, this story and the way she has build these characters and their surroundings just took my breath away. I know a lot of people who mainly read fantasy/dystopian say often that they are not attracted to contemporary YA because the fictional world is always the same, usually high school with a certain group of people are the focus. And yes, you can find that from Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, but the way that Albertalli writes about these people and this environment is done so well that I never felt like “hey, I have read this book before”. I loved the pacing of the novel and the switch between the chapters consisting of the email exchanges and the chapters focused on Simon's life outside the email exchanges. What was especially interesting was to see how these two worlds, Simon's life and the emails with Blue, start to emerge together as they start to know more about each other.

One of the best aspects of this book is the mystery of who Blue is. It is made clear in the beginning that Blue is someone who goes to same school with Simon, and it so much fun to put together all the little hints that point towards Blue's identity. Yes, I figured it out before it was revealed in novel, but that in no way made this less pleasurable read for me. Actually, I think it just made me love it even more, because I just couldn't wait to reach the point that the two actually meet each other.

There is also an interesting array of side characters in this book – Simon's family and friends, the drama club people, the people Simon meets as he tries to figure out his sexuality. I loved how the characters all contribute something to the story, but never take the focus away from Blue and Simon. As I was reaching the end of this novel, I felt grief just because I did not want it to end. Simon and Blue are one of those couples that will stay with me forever, and if Albertalli ever decides to write about them again, I will throw a party.

Though this is only Albertalli's debut, she has just become one of my favorite authors!

Five Snowflakes


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