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.
Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a hugely hyped book that I had been very interested to read. It sounded fluffy and romantic, and I went into it fully expecting to love it. That…wasn’t quite the case. (There will be spoilers, btw).
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t impressed with the first half. The main premise of the book – that Blue won’t reveal his identity to Simon – felt really artificial to me. Like, I can understand why it would be nerve-wracking for Blue to reveal himself after months of getting to know Simon via email, but there are so many other more interesting reasons why he might feel uncomfortable. For example, it is revealed that Blue is a person of colour. The book could have so easily talked about these multiple identities. I think that would have added a lot of depth to the novel. Blue also mentions that his mother is Episcopalian and his father is Jewish. While there is some discussion about religious beliefs about homosexuality, again, I found that this was ultimately skimmed over.
I also found Simon difficult to like. His reason for not coming out to his family, despite their immensely liberal outlook on life, is that they’ll make a big fuss about how they didn’t know this about him. Again, I understand that this is a different perspective on why someone might not want to come out – and it was nice that there wasn’t homophobia from Simon’s parents – but I just couldn’t connect to it. It almost felt like the book was pitting itself against all LGBT+ problem books. Obviously, this move away from problem books is great, but it just all felt a bit frivolous to me.
Despite all of this, I loved the second half of the novel. When Simon is outed without his consent, I really felt like the novel took off. This part was so amazingly written, as well. There were now consequences and real difficulties in the story, which the first half lacked, in my opinion. I loved how Albertalli emphasised what a personal decision coming out is, and how this potentially life-defining moment has been taken from Simon. This experience of being forcefully outed has happened to a couple of my friends. I want to shove this book into their (straight) outers faces to teach them how wrong they were.
Finally, I was so excited for Blue to reveal himself. One of the real strengths of this novel is Albertalli’s ability to keep the reader guessing about who Blue is. I was convinced I knew who he was, and I was completely wrong. This happened a couple of times, actually! I’m really interested to see how the movie keeps Blue’s identity a secret – although the audience knowing who he is could be an interesting angle.
I know I’m in the minority in my opinions about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – what did you think? Leave a comment and let me know 🙂