May 13, 2015

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



Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon Spier isn’t your typical high school junior. He doesn’t go to parties much, he’d rather have a part in the school musical than be on any of the sports teams, and has an insane obsession with Oreos that should definitely be mentioned.  The fact that the only person Simon has ever told he is gay is someone he has only ever emailed with is nothing compared to that.

Between hanging out with his friends, rehearsing for the school musical Oliver!, going to school, and being forced to watch the Bachelorette with his family, Simon still manages to find time to email with Blue, a boy who attends his school but who he has never met and can’t help but slowly be falling for. Nobody knows about Blue, or both of them being gay, but that is about to change. Not properly logging out of Gmail on a school computer is all it takes for this information to fall into the wrong hands. More exactly, for it to fall into the hands of someone who blackmails Simon with it.

Simon struggles with keeping his sexual orientation hidden, all the while being faced with everyday problems. One of his best friends being in love with the other, but him being completely oblivious to this and being in love with the third best friend, for example. And his family… Don’t even get started on the absurdity of his family. All of these problems, though, are easily overshadowed by the one question that keeps him up at night.
Who is Blue?

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Review by Eline

I heard about this book quite a while ago, and immediately dismissed it as something I’d be interested in reading. My sole reason for this decision was that LGBT books simply weren’t my thing, without ever having read one. This made me think. I am as okay with a man loving a man as I am with a man loving a woman. Then why am I so ready to shoot down a book about a guy who likes guys instead of girls? Not reading a book based on who the protagonist is into, I realized, was idiotic. For the sole purpose of proving this to myself, I added this book to my TBR.
And man, am I happy that I did.

Reading this book was a true journey. As someone who considers herself a straight female, I never have had to deal with coming out and facing discrimination or whatnot. It was fascinating, by lack of better words, to hear about that side of the story. Simply because I never experienced those emotions doesn’t mean I am not allowed to read and care about them, I now realize. Those, however, aren’t the only topics discussed in this book. Next to being into guys, Simon still is a teenager and I related to Simon so much it was actually strange to think this book wasn’t written by someone my age, but by an adult. Simon is trying to find himself and see how he fits in, discover where he belongs, and I don’t think there is a single teenager out there who hasn’t gone through this exact thing.

Next to being really relatable in the way Simon dealt with life, the way the definition of a teenager was approached truly made this book. I can honestly tell you I was sold at the first Harry Potter reference, which is on page 9 of the hardcover if you’re interested, and since then it just kept coming. Way too often, writers think teenagers are still children and therefore act like them, completely forgetting that they were a teenager too one day and what it meant to be one. Being a teenager is an in-between stage, no longer being a kid but not quite being an adult either. And with this different stage comes an entirely different culture. Becky Albertalli didn’t write teenagers like a child or like an adult, but as they truly are. Too big to be small, but too small to be big. The amount of pop culture references made it really believable and true-feeling, and the humor at times made me stop reading because I was laughing too hard. This genuinely felt like a book about teenagers instead of about sixteen year olds acting like they’re twelve, and I appreciated that a lot.

Now, before I say anything else, I have to talk about the plot of this book. My problem with contemporary books is often that there doesn’t seem to be a plot and not a lot is going on. It’s just people. Doing things. Without magic. That was not the case with this one. The book didn’t follow a clear plot as in, the princess gets abducted in the beginning and the hero spends the whole book getting to where the evil lord is keeping her to then rescue her in the end. There still is more plot than usual in the contemporary books I’ve read, though. Next to the constant struggles of a young gay boy, we’ve also got the added mystery of Blue. All we know about him is that he goes to the same school as Simon, and whilst reading you can’t help but think, “Is it you? Is it you? OH MY GOSH IT’S YOU,” whenever a new character is introduced. I was in the dark for quite a while about Blue’s identity, and I felt like it added so much to the story!

What also added much to the story, or better said, what made the story, were the characters. Even if a character was only mentioned once, very briefly, they showed clear personalities. Background characters weren’t present unless they were actually needed for one thing or the other, and the members of the Spier family weren’t just things with a name but actual developed characters. Every single person in this story had a purpose, had a reason for being in the book, and it’s clear a lot of thought went into each and every one of them.

That is what, to me, made this book stand out so much. Not the fact that the protagonist is gay, or because the book happens to be funny. No, what made this book so special was the amount of thought that had gone into every joke and every comment. Every word had a meaning, every word had a reason for being in the story, and whilst it feels really natural when you read it, I can only imagine how many hours went into getting the prose to feel authentic, let alone writing the actual story. I admire that, and it made the book so much better.

This is my first LGBT book ever, and after finishing it I just can’t understand why I had planned on dismissing this book at first. Actually reading a diverse Young Adult novel has made me realize how important it is to not only have diverse YA, but also don’t just write it for the sake of diversity but for the sake of telling a story. Diverse doesn’t have to mean different or weird, and this book portrayed that so well. I swooned like I would in any other book, and I actually squealed with joy at several parts in the story. Not because it was diverse, not because it was different. Simply because it was good.

I only have two problems with this book. One, I now am madly in love with a boy who A) is fictional, and B) is not into girls. Two, I really want to eat Oreos. And I don’t even like Oreos. But because of this book, I intend on eating them again. Because that is how amazing this book simply was.

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic review and one that made me smile.

    ReplyDelete

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