By Mollie Campbell.
Book: ‘Simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda’
Author: Becky Albertalli
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, LGBT
When I first started reading ‘Simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda’ I found it very difficult to sink my teeth into, nothing seemed to jump out at me which was quite disheartening as I was invested in the plot before I even purchased the book, but the structure seemed to create a dullness in terms of narrative. Nothing is particularly established apart from the fact that Simon is clearly being blackmailed which is obviously a big thing, and of course we get to know the characters through the online interactions between Simon and ‘Blue’ but the lack of an instant set-up and/or dialogue without the background knowledge to necessarily understand the severity of the situation, felt rushed. Then I gave it another shot and realised that the format is what gives the book its individuality, it is also very simple to follow and the writer uses aspects of the modern technological society we are living in to portray a contemporary love story, and a very important one at that.
As the book opens we meet Simon Spier, a high school student who has been talking to ‘Blue’ (his online name) over email, but the problem is that nobody in real-life knows that Simon is gay. This tale takes us on a journey… ups and downs, it makes us angry, it makes us cry, it makes us smile and reinforces the idea that we are all individual and unique in our own way, and tells us how we should embrace our differences instead of pointing them out as something to be ashamed of. One of my favourite quotes from the book is: “People really are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows”. It is a very thought-provoking observation of humans…we all live separate lives yet we are ignorant enough to think we know people inside out but that just isn’t the case, each person is made up of endless chapters, bound in an infinite book, and this story really highlights that. But at the same time, it also shows us that we don’t always see ourselves in the way others see us from the outside: “Sometimes it seems like everyone knows who I am except me”.
Apart from the rather annoying and constant use of the word ‘freaking’, an important story is established, one which many young adults are struggling with as we speak. Even in this modern and therefore open world, it is still a momentous decision to come out. For example, some people have identified as gay for as long as they can remember and they may have found it easier to have identified as that because it is what they have always known, for other people it isn’t as simple as that. Not only is there an internal battle between what people convince themselves the world thinks is ‘wrong’ and ‘right’, they feel as though they fit in with the former. I don’t think it is necessarily shame, more so finding the courage to be different and to publically label yourself as something in which people may constantly stereotype. Of course, I am not saying that people who are already out have it any easier; it is simply a different tale. This book not only reiterates to the reader that being gay truly is ok (not that it should have been necessary to confirm this in the first place), it also shows them that they are allowed to deal with it in whichever way they want to. If they want to come out, if they don’t want to come out, anything that doesn’t prevent them from being comfortable in their own skin. It also provides us with the message that the whole thing is in that individual person’s hands, nothing you decide is the wrong choice, it’s too personal for that…and nobody has the right to make any decisions for you, which is emphasised in this book.
Unfortunately I wouldn’t describe it as an advanced piece of literature in terms of language, variation or versatility but I did enjoy it and I’d probably read it again. Even though there may be a slight lack of flair or uniqueness to the writing, the significance of the plot and the heart-warming journey Simon goes on more than makes up for it. But I will give momentous credit where it is due, as Albertalli has managed to create such impactful yet contrasting characters in a relatively small amount of words, characters that stay with us long after leaving the book behind. And maybe this story leaves us all a tiny bit more capable of understanding ourselves as individual human beings, or at least provides us with the space necessary to do so.