I started this book at lunch yesterday, got sixty pages in, and then read the rest of it in a frenzy as soon as I got home from work. I even forgot to eat dinner. Guys, I NEVER forget to eat dinner. I’m thinking about what I’m going to eat for dinner immediately after lunch is over. Sometimes lunch the day before. I mean, I did eventually remember to eat, but only after I finished the book around 8:30. Only the really good books make you ignore the sleeping and feeding instincts, is what I’m saying.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda follows sixteen year old Simon Spier, who is gay but not yet out of the closet in an Atlanta suburb. He’s been in an email friendship with another anonymous gay male student for the past five months. They found each other on the school’s gossip Tumblr*, and have been talking each other through the emotionally rough process of being secretly gay in high school. They don’t know each other’s real identities. Simon goes by Jacques, and the other kid goes by Blue. Simon is only just beginning to realize how hard he’s falling for Blue when Simon forgets to log out of his Gmail on a library computer, and an acquaintance at school stumbles upon his emails. Said acquaintance, Martin, then basically starts blackmailing Simon, hinting strongly that if Simon doesn’t help Martin get with Simon’s friend Abby, he will tell the whole school that Simon is gay.
*I’m so glad Tumblr didn’t exist when I was in high school. Or pretty much anything but AOL Instant Messenger. SO, SO GLAD.
The whole Martin situation is indicative of the tone of the whole book. Nothing is black and white. Everything is specific and complicated. Martin isn’t a bad kid, but he doesn’t think through his actions, doesn’t even really see what he’s doing as blackmail until it’s too late. Even Simon can’t completely hate Martin. He feels affection for him even as he resents the position he’s been put in. Albertalli treats all her characters like that. She absolutely nails the complicated emotional terrain that is high school.
But Simon is the real star of the book, of course, as it should be. Simon’s voice as a narrator is immediately likable, and it only takes pages to get deep into the story and really feel for him. He’s funny and confused and thoughtful and kind, yet still oblivious at times, and like many teenagers, so wrapped up in his own problems he misses things that go on around him. We meet Simon right at a turning point in his life when he’s deciding who he is and who he will become, and how his life is changing around him as a result. And of course, as he tries to figure out who Blue is, so do we, so there’s a tiny bit of a mystery in here. I will admit that I guessed the right person about 30% in, and I’m really pleased with myself (and with the book).
Will definitely be getting my own copy of this for future comfort re-reads, and Becky Albertalli is going on my must-read list for sure. Books like this are why I won’t give up on YA lit, despite some of the mediocre or bad books I’ve read in the genre over the past several years. Great books can be found in any genre.