Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pub. Date: 2015
Genre: Contemporary YA, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Back in June, I saw Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda on display at the library in honor of LGBT Pride Month, but I got around to reading it in July. I was looking for LGBT books at the time. I vaguely remember seeing it on book blogs, but I was sold on the synopsis.
How can we make high school more awful? By adding blackmail! Simon wasn’t worried about himself, and he might have ignored the blackmail, except it would have harmed his in-the-closet pen pal, Blue. Simon and Blue are writing to each other, largely due to their similar sexual orientations. Neither boy knows who the other is, but they are developing a close friendship. With the threat of revealing his and Blue’s secrets to the world, Simon tries to figure out how to come out and accept changes before he is forced to.
Albertalli’s novel is a sweet romance, but the mystery crush can be figured out if you watch for clues. While I knew who Blue was in the first one hundred pages, I would have been as surprised as Simon had this book existed four years ago and had I read it then. The interactions between Simon and his crush were sweet with the exchanged emails and Simon’s trying to figure out who Blue is.
Speaking of the emails, I like that whole chapters are devoted to the emails. The only issue I have with the format of the emails is that all of the emails use indented paragraphs instead of block paragraphs. I don’t know how many email programs allow it, but I always have to force indentations by using spaces in my emails. It’s easier to use block paragraphs like we do in blogs and business letters. Maybe the publisher required it, or maybe it would have been too difficult to differentiate between the emails with block paragraphs. Pay attention to the subject lines because they are funny.
All the characters feel like real people, and their conversations and thoughts did not feel contrived. They talk like teens I hear today; they sounded like my classmates’ conversations when I was in high school. I like that the characters joked with each other and got up into the same antics that other high schoolers would. Simon, the narrator, speaks as somewhat distant from his friends when there’s strife. It felt strange yet real. That accurately reflects his thoughts since it is written in first person.
Since I cannot rely on personal experience to determine if the way homosexuality and coming out is presented is credible, I relied on Albertalli’s experience as a clinical psychologist. She has conducted therapy with teenagers, and she was a co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children. So, I think she knows what she’s writing about.
The book cover incorporates several pieces we learn about Simon like his style choice. I like that his head is missing to incorporate the hidden identities of the secret pen pals. The back cover includes his favorite food group: Oreos. The cover fits the book’s contents very well.
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is a cute LGBTQ romance with real characters and a dose of mystery. I recommend this to fans of contemporary YA and those who are looking for books with gay characters.