Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli

August 2, 2017

“People really are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows. And maybe it’s a good thing, the way we never stop surprising each other.”

People have been recommending this book to me for a solid year or more, and I’ve owned a copy since January, but I kept putting it off. I finally realized I had only put it off so long because it had been hyped so hard for me that I was scared I would be let down! I can safely say I wasn’t.

It’s hard enough being a gay teen, but being closeted, too? That’s not an easy life. Luckily for Simon Spier, he’s got an online penpal: another gay teen boy from his school, who he gets along swimmingly with. In fact, he might even be falling in love! The problem? He doesn’t have a clue who the kid is.

Simon is a really enjoyable narrator in that authentic, teen sort of way: he’s a little bratty at times, he can be incredibly self-centered, and some of his views on things are warped (see below), but at his core, he’s got a heart of gold and he’s such a fun perspective to read the story through. He made my heart ache a few times over his coming-out process, because I remember how hard it was to be a closeted, queer teen, and I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him everything would be okay. ❤

Blue, Simon’s penpal, is such a cute little guy and I loved reading the banter between these two! Sadly, someone on twitter had spoiled the secret of who Blue was a freaking week before I started reading the book, dammit. I think I would have enjoyed it so much more if I’d been able to be wrapped up in the mystery of who the penpal was, but obviously, that isn’t the book’s fault.

First, there’s my favorite: Abby. I don’t know what it was about her character, but something about her told me right from the start that she was just going to be a really lovable character and a good friend to Simon, and I wasn’t wrong. I lived for their little bonding moments, and if Becky Albertalli ever decided to write a book on Abby, I’d pick it up for sure.

Then, there’s Nick: I don’t really have anything to say about him, honestly. I know he was supposed to be one of Simon’s best friends, but I never felt like he got any character development whatsoever and if he hadn’t existed at all, I wouldn’t have noticed.

Finally, Simon’s last best friend: Leah. I have spoken to so many people who really adored Leah’s character and are super excited that she’s apparently getting her own book, and sadly, I don’t get it. I felt like there was this immenseamount of potential for Leah to be an incredible character, and none of it was taken advantage of. She was mean and petty throughout the bulk of the book, and while I did feel sorry for her from time to time, I mostly found myself wishing her segments would hurry up and finish.

I don’t want to leave out two other characters I enjoyed so much, though: the Spier sisters. They were such fun little pops of weirdness and/or adventure in the book, and I wish we’d gotten to see so much more of them.

The entire book is, from cover to cover, pure fluffy cuteness. There are so many little bits here and there that are sure to give you warm fuzzies and a smile. Simon would be a fantastic book to pick up to pull yourself out of a slump, because the quick pacing and the cuteness are sure to draw most YA readers out of their ruts.

The banter between Simon and Blue, as I mentioned, is flirty and fun and adorable and I wanted more, more more.

As a bonus for readers from the area, like myself, Becky did an impeccable job portraying the Atlanta metro! I loved how many names she used that I recognized immediately, and some of Simon’s inner monologues about the city were so fun and relatable.

Simon has some minor areas of being problematic here and there, but there’s one specific moment worth highlighting:

“I guess there are a few lesbian and bisexual girls, but I think it’s different for girls. Maybe it’s easier. If there’s one thing the Tumblr has taught me, it’s that a lot of guys consider it hot when a girl is a lesbian.”

This baffled me a little, but I thought, Oh, it’s just the character talking, it’s not like those are Becky’s thoughts… or are they? It never gets challenged. It’s frustrating enough in the real world to be told that bisexual women don’t have hard lives (while we’re simultaneously being shunned by both straight culture AND queer culture), but to see it in a book that’s meant to positively portray queer characters is just sigh-worthy.

Another thing that irked me a bit was Simon’s trip to the gay bar in Atlanta. Out of all of the experiences that he could’ve had, we choose to go with the stereotype of him being picked up by a beautiful, slim, flamboyant, white blonde man who gives him drinks without checking his age? Obviously, that’s an actual scenario that happens, but if you’re picking Atlanta – one of the most diverse cities in the nation – as your setting, you could really do with a little more diversity than that, right?

None of these are problems that were enough to make me dislike the book by any means, and I’m not trying to start any arguments or sway any opinions. These were just a few minor things that bugged me about the book, and they contributed to my lowering the rating a star.

Was I disappointed in this book that had been so strongly hyped for me? No, not at all! Did I think it was as ground-breaking as many of my peers do? No, not at all. It’s a cute story with some decent rep and fun characters, but I doubt I’ll rush to reread it and it definitely doesn’t make my “top queer contemporaries” list. I’ll be sure to check out more of Becky’s writing in the future, though!

More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. Glad this one didn’t let you down! 🙂 I also liked it, but only gave it a three star rating (which is still good to me!), I just had a few issues with things, like that one statement you pointed out and the bar situation. I also had a bit of trouble staying interested, which was frustrating to me. But I still recommend this book to others all the time! 🙂

      1. Yes, exactly! This is definitely one of those books that I would recommend more than my review probably implies, since I think it could be an AMAZING read for so many other people – it just didn’t hit all the marks for me.

    1. Great review! I read this earlier in the year and I liked it as well, but also gave it a slightly lower star rating than I think most people have done. It was cute and fluffy, but I agree that some aspects were a bit problematic and don’t really get addressed. I haven’t yet read Albertalli’s new book, so maybe she addresses those there since the MC is a bisexual teenage girl? Or at least, I hope she does.

      1. Thank you! I haven’t read her new book yet either, but I’m hearing incredibly mixed reviews from a lot of the reviewers that I trust most, so I’m a little nervous to pick it up. 🙁

    1. I’ve seen so much about this book and it sounds really good! I want to read it before the movie comes out, because i have to see the movie (Nick Robinson is gonna be in it!! and i pretty much love him) and I’m glad to see yet another person has enjoyed the book!!

    1. great review! ?
      i loved this book! i wasn’t that critical while reading it, i just enjoyed it so much and didn’t think that much about it. but i get your points! ?

      1. Thank you! <3 I usually try not to be overly critical while reading, but I think I've been feeling really tough on contemporary reads lately – not sure why! Maybe it's a sign I need to read a little less of the genre for a while and see if it's just me getting burnt out on it.

        1. yes i can imagine that reading a lot of one genre can be too much! i haven’t had that with contemporary, which i am super happy about, because that would be just awful! but in get that with thrillers for example. too many mysteries can burn me out ?
          what other genres do you like to read?

          1. Ooh, yeah, thrillers get me like that too sometimes! I think if you read enough thrillers in a short period of time, it’s kind of like when you watch too much CSI – it just makes you paranoid enough that you start guessing the twist every time. ??

            I mostly read YA fantasy (lately I’m on a magical realism kick), but I also like contemporary, sci-fi, thrillers, and horror (mostly adult on thrillers & horror – YA scares don’t usually impress me much anymore, sadly). What about you?

            1. haha exactly, CSI is the right comparison ?

              i haven’t read much magical realism yet, but i want to! i mostly read contemporary, mysteries, sci-fi and classics. but i want to read more fantasy! i am always afraid of them but in the end i just love them haha ?
              and horror? nope! i am scared so easily, no way! ? i read the shining once and i couldn’t sleep for a week and the light always had to be on hahaha ?

            1. Haha I know what you mean about fantasy! It’s like it can be intimidating at times? Especially adult fantasy for me because I’m so used to YA fantasy and sometimes I worry I’m just going to be bored. Lmao sorry you can’t enjoy horror! ? I have a hard time finding any horror that scares me anymore, sadly. Too bad we can’t swap a little and both end up in the middle of “comfortably frightened” ??

            1. haha, that would be amazing ? but i guess even the word “frightened” scares me ? i feel so uncomfortable watching or reading horror. i guess the shining was my bad experience in the past hahaha – when i watch horror, like one movie in 5 years, someone needs to sit next to me and hold my hand, because i scream a lot ? and with books its more scary, because my imagination goes wild ?

            1. Ooh, I 100% agree that books can be so much more scary than movies so I don’t blame you! My imagination is scarier than any CGI or makeup lmao. ? I think that’s why the first Paranormal Activity spooked me so much as a teen – because I had to fill in the blanks with my imagination!

    1. oh my god, I am SO GLAD you mentioned the whole shitting-on-gay-girls thing. It’s not something that makes me Despise The Book, but I really don’t like that comment :/

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