**Alternate title: Blue’s Clues! I think this image accurately sums up the angst of this book.
Not sure just how much I will have to say on this book. For me (a twenty-something, happily married mother of one) it brings back memories of the good, the bad, and the ugly of high school. So let’s just dive right in.
Summary from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
According to the cover of this book, Teen Vogue calls it, “The love child of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.” Yep. That’s accurate.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda took awhile for me to actually get into. My thought process went a little something like this:
“Ugh… Really Martin? Blackmailing him with emails to get the attention of a girl? *Two pages later* Ugh. The teenage angst! Was I this bad? *Ten pages later* C’MON, Simon… Just tell your friends you’re being blackmailed!!!! (Wait, guess you would have to come out then. Maybe.) *Three pages later* This book is going to take me sooooo long to read! *Page 200* Here already?! WHAT! It’s midnight! I have to be up at 6:30! But it’s ONLY 100 more pages left….”
No kidding. Somewhere along the way, the teenage angst of existential crises and identity issues faded to the background as I became so obsessed with finding out who Blue was. I was sure I had it figured out! (I didn’t.) Somewhere along the way, I was able to enjoy the trip down memory lane – the excitement of first relationships and kisses (granted, it’s more like Simon’s first honest relationship, since he had dated and kissed girls, but that doesn’t count), the struggle of high school friendships, and the changes in familial relationships. One thing I really liked about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is that it doesn’t overwhelm you with the developing romance between Simon and Blue. It spends a good bit of time on Simon’s friendships and family as well.
It’s funny that I read this book now because over the past week, before ever picking this book up for FYA Book Club, I have been looking back on my high school self a lot. She’s not someone I particularly like. Like Simon, she could be a self-absorbed jerk. And like Simon, she didn’t know her friends as well as she thought, despite how close they were or how much time they spent together. It wasn’t until college that I really started to value and invest in my friendships, and even that was after my best friend called me out for not being there for her. So reading Simon’s revelations his about his own friendships was very relatable to me.
Also relatable – Simon’s experience with first love. I too am a cynical romantic. I too had the secret “boyfriend”, except instead of Tumblr and email, it was Myspace. (Though, looking back, my secret love could have totally been an old man. Probably a good thing I never met him…) But we have to talk about the elephant in the room – Simon being gay. (Now… I am pretty sure it’s not really an elephant since the whole book centers around his coming out. But I live in Southern Alabama, sooooo… it’s an elephant. Therefore, please bear with me as I am probably about to get fifty shades of honest.)
I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to homosexuality. I ask in advance that you forgive me for anything I say that is offensive. Like Simon’s dad, I don’t mean to be offensive, I just don’t necessarily know where “the line” is.
I grew up with a conservative viewpoint of homosexuality. “The gays” (I say that ironically) weren’t really people I came into contact with much in high school. I knew a guy at a local liberal arts college who was gay, but I never saw him with a boyfriend. When I got to college, friends started coming out, started dating, and I started making new friends who were out. It was like a foreign country to me, and I was admittedly uncomfortable. Again, this is mostly because it was a new world for me. I say all this to say this is the second book I’ve read this year that features a gay male protagonist (the other being Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, which coincidentally centers around a guy named Simon)…. and I didn’t hate it. At first it was a little awkward since I have never actually seen a guy kiss a guy or a girl a girl. I’ve never talked with gay friends about their relationships (though, duh, I’m assuming they get the same feelings straight people do). But yeah – it’s a strange and intriguing world for me. It’s different. It’s something I haven’t experienced.
So color me surprised when I found myself really invested and even rooting for these fictional characters and their romance plots. Color me surprised when I get the warm fuzzies when Simon finally meets Blue, and it’s just the sweetest. Genders aside; beliefs, convictions, feelings aside; can we all just agree that at their cores, stories of human experience are always moving? We always feel something, we always root for the Simons and Blues of the world, for secret love and happy endings. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like we want people to be truly happy. Or maybe that’s just me. And I know they’re just characters in a book, but it’s hard not to feel a connection to someone – fictional or real – when you’re in their head, when you hear them out. (Imagine how much better the world would be if we all just listened to each other, like truly listened with an open mind and open heart. Ok, sappy soap box over…)
In short, I liked this book, and that surprises me. It surprises me that I enjoyed my trip down memory lane, but Simon vs. just reminds me of all the joy that came despite the teenage drama – fun memories with friends, silly arguments, and the passion and intensity of first love. It surprises me that I enjoyed this book so much when it featured an experience so foreign to me – coming out. But it’s like Simon says… somewhere in the book that I can’t find anymore because I finished it at 1:36 AM and didn’t remember to mark the page… everyone “comes out” in some way. Everyone has a part of his or herself that they hide from the rest of the world, a part that they eventually reveal as they grow and change. I’m not sure if Simon vs. is a book I will come back to time and again, but it was a quick read that gave me the warm fuzzies. It made me nostalgic for my high school years but also thankful for how much I have grown and the friends that have stuck with me through the years. I promise I’m a better friend now, if only because of them.