REVIEW: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

10015384-_sy540_AUTHOR: Becky Albertalli

PUBLISHER: Balzer + Bray

DATE PUBLISHED: April 7, 2015

RATING: 4.5 out of 5

SYNOPSIS (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.

 

I seldom conclude something like this but I’d like to make it official. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens actually made it as one of the best reads of 2015 for me (Yes, it’s 2016 but I’m still publishing reviews I read from a year ago). Close enough to my favorites, Me Before You and A Monster Calls. I’m still swimming on a sea of clouds at this very moment.

Writing Style

I am mostly generous on my reviews on an author’s writing style. If I get to the end, that means the writing’s okay. That simple. Superb if I finish the book in no more than two days. Becky Albertalli’s writing style classifies on this category. It’s both witty and thought-provoking. What I like the greatest about it is its straightforward, no-nonsense manner of unveiling the story. It has the proper and balanced distribution of action and thoughts. I like “quotable quotes” on books but if they get too many, it just peeves me to a large extent.  I like how on SVTHSA, there’s just not many of those. Just adequate to get its points across and be remarkable.

Plot

On the first half of the novel, the story revolves around Simon’s covert homosexual identity being threatened to be exposed by Martin to the face of the earth. I like how it has a truth-based sort of plot. Bullying and blackmails often correlate with coming out. Much of the story orbited around this thing that I regret to say, plunging into the story was an effort on the initial parts. Ten or so pages later, the plot picked up dynamics as more and more events are woven into the story. My favorite part was when Simon exclaimed how he felt when Martin revealed his secret to the world. I felt every word and setting and timing to be honest and exact and proper. One of my top quotes reads:

“And you know what? You don’t get to say it’s not a big thing. This is a big fucking thing, okay? This was supposed to be – this is mine. I’m supposed to decide when and where and who knows and how I want to say it.”

Simon, who goes by the alias Jacques, exchanges email to an online persona pseudo-nicknamed, Blue. I like how their conversations grew from friendly to romantic. This is not a hackneyed case of insta-love, ladies and gents. The development of their messages was steamed at a pace steady enough to be somehow pretty realistic without letting the reader be lulled into boredom. Anyone here who guessed who Blue was before the big reveal? I didn’t. I had several hypotheses and none of them came close to who he was. There were only a few subtle hints directed to his persona and it’s fairly easy to miss those if truth be told. Overall, I like the unfurling of this Jacques-Blue love drama.

Theme

The focal theme of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is homosexuality. Long before this book, there’s already more than a few literary works dedicated to tackling the said theme. This, however, is among just a handful that fell on the Young Adult genre. Something fresh, yeah?

The contemporary ages brought forth several advancements in terms of society’s treatment to homosexuals, i.e. embracing the ideology with an unprejudiced mind. Nevertheless, the basis to conclude that LGBT’s struggle for equality is achieved is barely sufficient because if it is, then SVTHSA story won’t be in existence. This book raised an attention-grabbing remark about the necessity for homosexuals to unveil themselves to the world and explain their identity. Like, why doesn’t it work similarly for the “dominating” genders. How is it not fair?! The world being unfair is no surprise, yes? I’ve been thinking through and through and I’ve come up with these (seemingly rhetorical) questions. Feel free to discuss with me.

  • If someone “came out” to me, should I also “come out” where I explain my preference for boys over girls, and why I consider myself as a “woman” etc? Why is there even a need to come out??
  • Ugh, don’t get me started on labels! Why should we label ourselves Male, Female, Gay, Lesbian, Bi or Trans or whatever and get trapped on this big mess of a puppet show. Us, the puppets. Social constructs, the ventriloquists.
  • How are males and females considered the golden standards of gender??

I’m a sister and a friend to a number of homosexuals and while I the anguish don’t cut me firsthand, I somehow know what it resembles. That’s why my passion for this topic has deep-end roots.

Let’s talk about bullying, another topic central to SVTHSA. This is one (bullying) that’s hardly isolated when the issue of homosexuality is grilled hot on the seat.  Oftentimes, the blow hit hard which eventually leads to emotional disturbances. In the story, there were a couple of royal jerks – Martin, his dad, the whole school, etc. – who tormented Simon in different ways. I like that despite getting wrecked after everything he’d been through, he handled the matter gracefully. Like, turn your back against the world who dump their sh*t on you. There’s something empowering in that for the group though no LGBT stories are ever identical.

Characters

On the whole, I love the mixture of characters on this novel. I am greatly pleased for Albertalli’s way of combining personalities that supported each other’s character development. Also, as this is set in high school, I like that stereotyping – which became a habit on many high-school based YA fiction – is not big. 

Simon is your average guy with a boy-next-door attribute. His status at school lays comfortably on the middle spectrum i.e. neither the popular nor the bummer. For me, he’s a kickass character whose philosophy I can very much identify with. For one thing, what he wrote to Blue was true with a small spice of pretence – his attempt on perfecting his grammar for his online mate is hilarious but on the side, I can’t help but hoot “aww”. At some points, I am like that too especially if I’m talking to someone who’s worth chatting with but whose intellect explodes beyond normal. Not entirely to pretend I’m on his/ her level or anything but at least just to.. I don’t know.. give the same reason why Simon proofreads his email before hitting send? Blue (just a nom de plume) was a sweet, cautious, religion-oriented guy. I understand his lack of confidence to meet Simon at first. It’s a whole lot scary, new territory he’ll be stepping into especially since this “relationship” originated from secrecy on the web. There’s a big risk and the odds to success fall to uncertainty.

The set of villains – well, not entirely villains but please do get the point – were ironically lovely. Martin evoked to readers the feeling all bad guys meant to. Simon’s dad’s offending efforts to crack a joke likewise did the same. It’s a good thing these guys had a dose of their own medicine on Simon’s retort.

And then there are the noteworthy “supporting characters,”Abby and Leah. Abby is the new bean in the group which unfortunately for Leah, outshone the only flower among the thorns.I like how their “chemistry” worked. It is the perfect portrayal of high school immaturity which is oftentimes, resettled to adulthood.


Should you consider this book? If you’re up for some fluffy, witty read with socially relevant themes that would make you think otherwise of your gender-centric views, this book is for you. 

simonvs
An original creation of the amazing Cristina @ My Tiny Obsessions.

 

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15 comments

  1. I’m so happy you liked this book as much as me 😀 it was just amazing :D. By the way, I need to know who you suspected Blue was. He was actually on my possibilities, and I was super happy when my suspicions were proven correct

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  2. Such a lovely review, Trisha Ann! Very well thought-out and detailed. I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while now. I don’t think I’ve heard any negative things about it, and I’m so excited to read it.

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    • That’s the part I loved, the way it handled the matter of homosexuality. It was full of messages that were interspersed wisely within dialogues and plots. And yes, YA (and other genre) needs to be more diverse!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed Simon VS! It’s sugar and spice and all things nice in a novel – despite touching on the tougher subject of bullying and emotional isolation. I love your discussion about coming out! A beautiful and thoughtful review, thank you!

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    • Thank you, Aentee! You were right about that sweet description of Simon VS. Becky Albertalli wrote such a fluffy story but at the same time never failed to get her messages across!

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