“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.
WHAT I LIKED ➳➳
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.
WHAT I DISLIKED ➳➳
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.
FINAL VERDICT ➳➳
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!