I am not a quick reader, but I blazed through Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda in one sitting. I haven’t seen the movie yet and didn’t know much about the book before I saw it while browsing bookstores on a recent trip, but I’m really glad I read it.
The story begins as teenage Simon is blackmailed by a fellow student who inadvertently read Simon’s email exchange with another boy Simon knows only as Blue. They’re both closeted and want to keep it that way, but now this other student is threatening to out them both if Simon doesn’t help hook him up with his friend, Abby, the cool new girl in school.
As a typical, nerdy teenager, Simon juggles schoolwork, extra-curriculars, friends, and family, while trying to appease his blackmailer and deepen his online relationship with Blue. We get to read their emails, and we see them testing the waters, dropping a clue here and there, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not, afraid to fully reveal but hoping the other will figure it out. In the process, Simon also has to decide when (not if) and how he’s going to come out, a process that is never as simple or easy as it should be.
I liked this book a lot. It’s smart and sweet and melted my cold, black heart. It reminded me of all of the online dating I’ve done as an adult, the back and forth, the waiting for a response, the regret of saying something stupid, the anticipation of finally meeting face-to-face and hoping that the personal chemistry matches the email/text rapport. I found myself wishing that this book had been around for me to read when I was in high school or even college, knowing how my idealistic teenage self would have been obsessed with it.
I loved how Albertalli turned this sweet teen love story into a mystery novel with more suspense than the straight-up mysteries I’ve read lately, and I’ll admit I wasn’t sure until the big reveal. She really commits to narrating with Simon’s voice, letting him sound like a teenager, especially when he gets drunk. The parallels with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl were delightful, too, with references to Harry Potter and even the name Simon. I can’t wait to see the movie now and will be adding the followup, Leah on the Offbeat, to my wishlist.