Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli
Original Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Obtained Via: Advanced Reader’s copy given by the publisher through Edelweiss. This in no way influenced my opinion of the book.
View at the Traffic light:
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.
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a delightful book. I knew as soon as I started reading that I didn’t want it to end. Somehow this relatively short book managed to contain an adorable romance, some realistic but not over-the-top treatment of serious issues, and a ton of heart. Simon instantly became one of my favorite first person narrators. He’s funny, has great taste in music and sweets(I cannot look at a copy of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda without wanting Oreos now!), and is completely charismatic.
When Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda starts, Simon has already been exchanging emails with Blue for awhile, but the entire situation becomes more intense when his emails to Blue are discovered by a classmate. Simon has to navigate being blackmailed, friend drama, his crush on Blue(who’s identity is still secret to Simon), all while keeping that part of himself hidden from his friends, family, and classmates. Despite some of the struggles that come along with that, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda never feels depressing. Even when Simon has to deal with serious issues, at heart the story of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the story between Simon and Blue.
It’s just not his email crush on Blue, but several aspects of his life that Simon ends up examining over the course of the book. Many YA books deal with self-discovery, but Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda takes that a step further and gets into the idea of identity. Simon still has some of that exploration, but much of the book is not him coming to terms with himself, but the steps after. His sexual identity is part of that, certainly, but it’s only a piece of the big picture.
“I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.”
There’s just something that seems profoundly universal about that, and I think everyone who reads Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda will resonate with that idea. It’s one thing to know yourself–it’s another to, as Simon says, “have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again”, even when it stems from the most mundane things.
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a short book, but manages to cram so much into every scene. Some deal with his emails with blue, some with Martin’s blackmail, others into the dynamic of his friend group, and then others into his family. Throughout it all, there’s a great sense of humor that just permeates the entire book, thanks to the narrative voice. I found myself getting choked up at times(and not just because of Simon–there are several characters who have interesting story lines), pumping my fist into the air during a conversation about sexist language, and laughing. Seriously, there was a lot of laughing, and I don’t laugh easy. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a very modern book(which might make it feel dated down the line), and in this case it absolutely worked.
“As a side note, don’t you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever.”
Of course, at the heart of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the romance. It takes a lot to make a romance that happens mainly through written correspondence believable, especially since Simon and Blue don’t know each other at first. In just a few email conversations, though, I was on board. Simon and Blue’s emails range from the mundane(preferences of sweets) to the serious(coming out to family) to the flirty, often in just a few paragraphs. A large chunk of the book is Simon trying to figure out who Blue is, since Simon knows Blue goes to the same school. There are several suspects, all who seem believable, and by the end of the book I was anticipating the reveal of Blue’s identity as much as Simon was(totally called it, by the way, and gave myself a gold star for that one).
I had high hopes for Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and the book managed to knock them all out of the park. I was expecting to love it, but I had no idea how endearing I would find this contemporary romance. While pretty much every aspect of this book was great, the MVP sticker goes to the character of Simon, who is one of my favorite main characters in a long time.
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of my favorite reads of the year. I know I’ll be revisiting this book several times in the future. 5/5 cupcakes.