Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaPublisher: Balzer + Bray Released: 03.25.15 Review by Sam Devotta | January 15, 2016 at 1:30 PM
“Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it shouldn’t be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I’m just saying.”
Basically: In between being blackmailed and hiding his sexuality, it’s proving difficult for Simon Spiers to figure out who his mysterious email pen-pal is in Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
As far as Simon Spiers is concerned, the only people who need to be worried about his sexuality are him and his email pen-pal, Blue. But when another student finds out his secret and uses it to blackmail him, Simon has to figure out how to avoid being publicly outed to the whole school—and his family—while also protecting Blue’s identity. Oh, and he still has to make time for the school musical rehearsals. Junior year just got a lot more complicated and as someone who hates change, Simon is having a hard time adjusting.
Simon is one of the most realistic contemporary YA characters we’ve ever encountered. He’s a stickler for proper grammar, but occasionally suffers from an embarrassing autocorrect (we feel you, Simon). With his love of Harry Potter and fondness for Oreos, he’s pretty much our idea of a great BFF. He’s sweet and stubborn and funny and introspective, and, unlike a lot of YA characters who have eyes for only one person, just because he’s “in love” with the mysterious Blue, it doesn’t stop him from checking out other guys in his class (how many of us have given someone the ol’ once-over even if we’re with someone else?).
The rest of the characters are just as quirky and diverse, from Simon’s reality-show loving parents who make watching The Bachelorette a sport, to his sisters—politically correct Alice and quiet but talented Nora. His core group of friends, Abby, Nick, and Leah, also have their own mini side plots. The supporting cast of Simon is interesting enough to keep us reading, even if we’re mostly impatient to discover Blue’s identity. If you’re paying attention, you can guess who he is, but their flirty emails and the final reveal are still smiling-until-your-cheeks-hurt satisfying.
Albertali’s debut is a convincing portrait of a young man, written with such a strong voice we almost forgot Simon isn’t real. It’s very much a character-driven novel, but Simon is so engaging, it makes the fairly simple plot easy to swallow, and we loved getting to know the students of Creekwood High.
In the end: Read it! Albertalli’s witty prose will have you equal parts snickering and smiling foolishly. And, though it’s already been optioned for a movie, there’s something special about reading Simon and Blue’s adorable emails for yourself.