REVIEW: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli

Friday, 6 April 2018

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.

Simon feels like someone I know. He feels like me and my friends in our teen years. I think that is why I, and so many people like me, feel so attached to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli somehow managed to capture a small slice of what it means to be a queer adolescent in the twenty-first century. And yes, I know that the queer experience isn’t universal but there are so many aspects of this novel that feel as though they are - the heteronormative assumption of those around you that you’re straight, the realisation within yourself that you're not, the first moment you find someone in a similar boat, the anxiety around telling people and the worry that your friends and family (even if you know that they won’t) may reject you.
The last is the one that hits me the hardest and I knew that this book would be difficult to tackle because of that. Forcible outing makes me feel sick to the very bottom of my stomach and I did not understand how Simon could be so chill about it. Although the only solution I suppose he had was reporting the threats, which he obviously did not want to do, because that would also involve him coming out before he was ready.
Let me reiterate: no person should have to come out before they are ready. And even if they are out to some people, that should not mean that they have to be out to everyone. I do not understand for the life of me why fucking imbeciles like Martin, and oh boy do they exist in real life, believe that they are entitled to power over when, or if someone decides to come out as queer.
I am honestly seething with rage just thinking about it.
I HATED Martin and I believe that he is really irredeemable for his actions, no matter how much he tearily apologises. I mean imagine what would have happened if Simon’s parents/friends/school district/town had, like a sickening amount of people in real life, reacted badly? In these moments we cannot forget Matthew Shepard and the many, many other LGBTQ+ people like him, who are isolated, abandoned, harassed, abused or even killed because of their sexual or gender identity.
Look past the fluffy romance, guys, and see the reality.
I am hoping that the publicity surrounding the book, which is only growing now that the movie adaptation has been released, will allow queer teenagers to see a character which reflects their own experience, and that their straight counterparts will think a little harder about the repercussions of someone being forcibly outed. In my mind, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is an incredibly important book, both because it is a LGBTQ+ romance that has hit the mainstream that does not end in someone dying (how rare is that?) , and because it will hopefully open up more serious conversations amongst the world's teenagers.
P.S - On a lighter note, I do not understand why Leah is getting her own book because frankly, she sucks

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