Longtime Cannonballers know of my obsession with all things Andrew Smith. From the moment that I first read Grasshopper Jungle I was obsessed with reading as much of this work as I could, as quickly as possible. When I finished his books, I started reading the books that he tweets about and books by friends of his. I discovered AS King and We Are the Ants. So when I saw that the highly lauded Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda actually had a blurb from Smith on the cover, really, I need no further praise than that.
And Andrew Smith was right, of course. He called it “a remarkable gift of a novel.”
Here’s what I love about writers like Smith, Rainbow Rowell, and now Becky Albertalli: they write about teens, but they treat them like fully developed human beings. Their characters say things you could imagine actual people saying. They do funny things, awkward things, stupid things. They make mistakes, and sometimes learn from them. These are real people in real situations (well, except for that giant praying mantis invasion): problems with friends, questions about love and sex, wondering about sexuality and gender, balancing home life and school. You know. Stuff that literally every human goes through at some point in their lives.
Albertalli gives us the wonderful Simon, a closeted gay high school student in Georgia. Nobody knows his secret, except for two people. The first is his secret, online penpal, Blue. The second is Martin, a kid from the school play that Simon is in who stumbles across some of the emails between Simon and Blue and uses them to blackmail Simon into setting him up with Simon’s adorable friend Abby. (whoa. total run-on sentence. but its just one of those teenage situations that practically begs for run-on details).
As Simon and Blue continue to email and open up to each other about their lives and their feelings, Simon tries to figure out just who Blue might be. All he knows is that they go to the same school, but nothing else.
Meanwhile, Simon deals with coming out to his friends and family, his sister going away to college and changing the family dynamic, and the jealousy between two of his friends who both fall for the same guy.
I loved Simon’s family and their unquestioning support of Simon. I appreciated that his dad, who had made tons of gay jokes in the past, felt bad about it but had really never meant any harm. Just showing how his casual, throwaway remarks really bothered Simon was an important insight into their relationship.
When we finally find out who Blue is, I wasn’t disappointed. I wish Simon and Blue all the luck in the world and hope that someday we get a whole Becky Albertalli universe (like Sarah Dessen’s world or Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl/Landline bits) of books and get to catch a glimpse of future, happy Simon.
My apologies to Becky Albertalli, who is clearly an amazing new talent. I didn’t mean to make your review all about Andrew Smith. Its a compliment, I swear. I just can’t help myself.