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  • Sean Chapman

Book Review: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda follows Simon Spier as he struggles with keeping his sexuality a secret while the one other person who knows, Martin Addison, is blackmailing him. In addition, he chats via email with another gay boy, who uses the pen-name ‘Blue’, with chapters being dedicated to these exchanges. This element brings a refreshing perspective and heavily contextualises the setting of the story. The young adult fiction grew in popularity after the release of its movie counterpart, Love Simon, in 2018.

The story begins with Martin blackmailing Simon, and potentially outing him. This starts readers off in the thick of the crisis, but it does mean that readers know straight from the get-go that Simon is gay. Martin is going to keep Simon’s secret if he can get Martin and Abby, one of Simon’s friends, to hang out. Readers are also introduced to the other major characters quite early into the story too; Abby, Nick and Leah all being Simon’s close friends (with Leah being his best friend).

The story also gives us two to three pages of email exchanges between Simon (Jacques) and Blue to build up the relationship between the two while also giving readers a short intermission every second chapter. Of course, these chapters are also fundamental to the story, because Simon also struggles with trying to puzzle together who Blue is, based on clues from their emails, which creates an interesting narrative when Simon usually gets it wrong.

When Abby begins to date Nick, Martin feels ‘betrayed’ by Simon and posts the emails he had screenshot and outs Simon (and Blue too) which results in the almost perfectly balancing Jenga tower that is Simon’s life to come crashing down around him. His friendships become estranged and he must tackle coming out to everyone all at once, instead of slowly like he would have wanted.

The whole story is about Simon, him keeping his sexuality and Blue a secret from everyone, Martin blackmailing Simon and figuring out who Blue. With so much plot happening all at once, the author doesn’t fail to build up multidimensional characters that help to create conflict and drive this plot. Some of the conflicts I personally didn’t enjoy because they felt unnecessary and were also a result of miscommunication by multiple characters.

For the rest of the month I will be hosting discussion of this book... so let’s discuss.

What did everyone like and/or dislike about the book?

See, I liked that because the story built multidimensional characters, so we weren’t shown some stereotypical, media fabricated carbon copy of a token gay character whose whole identity revolves around being gay. Yes, some of Simon’s personality stems from him being gay, but it also shows how he likes his family and friends, he’s goofy and little bit nerdy.

Something that I felt that was off about the story was the conflict Simon and his friends eventually experienced, because most of it stems from the fact that Simon didn’t communicate with Abby. He came out to her first but didn’t do any explaining of how he’s been acting weird and trying to coerce her and Martin so that Martin didn’t out him. Abby might not have understood at that point, we will never know, but it would have helped for when his world came crashing down if one person had known all along.

Did the book live up to your expectations?

For me, the book did live up to the expectation I had for it. It wasn’t much of an expectation, I just wanted to read it for the movie, but it did really well for creating characters that are realistic and a plot that didn’t seem to move too quickly nor was it necessarily a slow plot.

If you have seen the movie, what did you think of the two? Did one perform better than the other? Discuss.

I feel that the book and the movie are two different stories. Much of the book was altered for the movie (as it usually is) but I know that Becky Albertalli wanted to change a few things about the story to fit better into a 2018 context instead of the 2014/2015 context it was in.

Both performed well in their form of media, but I liked the book better because of how the issue between Leah and Simon was handled. Their conflict focused around how Leah was socially anxious and liked Nick and how Simon had played matchmaker with everyone. It was a more believable motive for her rejection of Simon later in the novel, but the movie portrayed their conflict as she liked him, and now she feels betrayed. It is a different spin that doesn’t do well for either characters, especially Leah. It makes her seem a little shallower than in the book, which shows that there is deep rooted anxiety at play.

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