“Straight people really should have to come out, and the more awkward it is, the better. Awkwardness should be a requirement. I guess this is sort of our version of the Homosexual Agenda?” …
… “The Homosexual Agenda? I don’t know. It think it’s more like the Homo Sapiens Agenda. That’s really the point, right?” (Albertalli 147, 148).
These lines from the emails between protagonist Simon Spier and the mysterious “Blue,” a boy from his school he met via screen names on Tumblr, whose true identity he does not know, exemplify what’s to love about Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by first time author Becky Albertalli (http://www.beckyalbertalli.com/): Simon’s voice. A protagonist who draws readers in, making the reader both identify with him and want to know him is what great young adult fiction is all about, and Albertalli has more than accomplished that with Simon.
The opening pages of the book plop us right in the middle of a major conflict. Not-so-openly-gay Simon Spier accidentally forgets to logout of his gmail on a school computer. Martin, the next person to use the computer, notices emails Simon has been writing to someone nicknamed “Blue” and from these emails, Martin deduces Simon’s secret and decides to blackmail Simon. Martin wants to get to know Simon’s friend Abby better, hopefully getting the chance to win Abby’s affections, in return for his silence regarding Simon’s sexual orientation. Simon reluctantly agrees and as Martin, Abby and Simon work on the school production of Oliver!, he grudgingly sets up opportunities for Martin and Abby to interact while continuing to talk via email with Blue, wondering if he should just be honest and let his family and friends know he is gay, and wondering if he will ever meet Blue.
Simon’s conflict with Martin and the inner conflict he has with himself play out in two different narrative styles. The narrative shifts back and forth between chapters in Simon’s first person observations and chapters consisting of emails between Simon and Blue. Sometimes this technique makes me as a reader skim through the narrative style that I don’t like as much or sometimes don’t care about (side eye to the Simon Snow chapters of Fan Girl) to get back to the juicy part of the narrative but that didn’t happen with this book. Simon’s voice is clever. It’s witty. It’s real. And it comes through loud and clear in both the narrative chapters and the email chapters. There almost seems to be real chemistry between him and Blue in these emails and I was eager to read each page.
The only criticism I have are the characters Nick and Leah. They are Simon’s oldest and best friends, but they seem underdeveloped for characters who are suppose to be so special to him, especially Leah. Leah has a story line that develops later and I get where her story line figures in thematically, but it seems like almost an add-on, especially since Martin, the would-be antagonist, seems to have more character development than Nick and Leah.
The voice of Simon Spier will move you quickly through this novel and you will continue thinking about him after you finish the last page. Great first effort from Becky Albertalli and I am excited to see how this writer develops in the future.