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. — [X]
Ahh! I’m sorry I don’t have a verse novel post ready this week! I spent all of last month joyfully reading whatever and um, July was kind of surprise? Sorry! I should have a post ready for next week! For today, I want to talk about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. The book starts off with the very ridiculous situation of Simon forgetting to log out of his email and, as a result, having Martin figure out Simon’s deal. Even as Martin is reassuring Simon that he doesn’t mind Simon being gay (“My brother’s gay.” *eye roll*), Martin is building up to blackmail. As a result, Simon must cozy up to people that (some of) his real friends are not comfortable cozying with. It’s all very awkward. Hilarity with a touch of poignant drama ensues.
The thing about Simon vs. is that despite the premise being such a frustrating one, this sense of frustration is exactly what prompts some of the more wonderful lines in the novel. Simon, who must constantly walk a balance of Himself and Not All Of Himself is used to being the observer:
“I mean, I feel secure in my masculinity, too. Being secure in you masculinity isn’t the same as being straight.”
But now that he is being blackmailed while walking a tightrope, Simon questions the way his life is and the way life is for so many. He questions both, the importance and the futility, of coming out and he questions why humanity embraces the kinds of people that they do as the default:
“It is definitely annoying that straight (and white, for that matter) is the default, and that the only people who have to think about their identity are the ones who don’t fit that mold. Straight people really should have to come out, and the more awkward it is, the better. Awkwardness should be a requirement.”
There are many things about this book that I love: the hilarious, insightful writing, the characters that feel so real you may as well have hallucinated the book in your hands, and the sensitive, self-aware manner in which characters– who ought to be token but aren’t tokenized at all– are written. But the careful (organic! seemingly effortless!) way in which Albertalli develops each relationship is a thing of beauty and easily the best part of this novel. Whether we are watching Simon’s relationship with Blue burgeon into something romantic, or Simon’s relationship with his family, or even that uncomfortable connection between him and Martin (friend? almost friend? definitely not a friend?), it is very clear that Albertalli is a genius at laying bare the complexities of human connections.
I guarantee you’ll want to re-read this one almost immediately upon finishing it. Recommended. <3