Book Review: “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli

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For all those looking for a lighter tale of a contemporary coming out, look no further than Becky Albertalli’s hilarious Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – out today. As Simon says, “If mum thinks me drinking coffee is big news it’s going to be quite a morning…”

Double stuffed full of Oreo delights, laugh-out-loud moments, cute crushes, annoying classmates, and firm friendships, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a delight through and through.

When 16-year -ld Simon Spier posts his secret to the Creeksecrets Tumblr, he finds a common friend with another boy who is gay at the same school. Their Tumblr messaging leads to longer email exchanges, which make way to a blossoming romance. The only thing is, Simon still has no idea whom the anonymous Blue actually is… and someone is on to them both. Dealing with a blackmailer is NOT Simon’s idea of the height of romance; it’s actually seriously stupid. Can he protect Blue and come out on his own terms?

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the perfect example of how to write diverse learning moments in subtle, fun, plot-engaged ways. Simon thinks that straight people should have to come out, too, and the more awkward it is, the better. Often we see complaints that LGBTQIA young adult books feature on the coming out storyline too much, and here Albertalli points out in a way that resonates that there’s still a long way to go and that yes, these stories are still very important. Coming out doesn’t have to be a big deal, but it can still feel pretty monumental. Read Albertalli’s brilliant essay on the BN Teens blog here for more on why she wanted to tell Simon’s story now and why it matters.

The main focus of the novel aside from Simon dealing with the blackmail fallout is a whodunit-like guessing game of just who is Blue? Albertalli litters the story with fun hints and red herrings via Simon’s daydreaming. I guessed midway through who Blue might be and was delighted to be proved right. But the cleverest aspect of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the way that both Simon and the reader are challenged on their expectations. I second guessed myself before the end and was pleasantly surprised by the direction the story took. The message is strong: Never assume anything.

The way that Simon and Blue get to know each other is this feat of slow burning, personality-driven communication, which gives their romance a strong base of companionship potential, hand in hand with some intense chemistry. It’s a young, gay first love story for the digital age.

I also loved Simon’s strong friendships and supportive though messy family dynamics since they were both real and relatable, as well as delightfully quirky. Also hugely enjoyable was the way that Albertalli creates a narrative packed full of contemporary references that will resonate with teens of today, using social media in a light and clever way to push the story forward. Knowingly and tongue-in-cheek geeky, there’s nothing suave about her characters, and you’ll fall in love with them in all their hapless, hopeless glory.

Although she touches on serious topics, Albertalli’s writing is fresh, gleeful, and dynamic, and her book is simply a joy.

Gorgeous romance that will keep you guessing, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is perfect for fans of David Levithan, Andrew Smith, Rainbow Rowell, and Jennifer Niven. A delightful read with a central character that will both move and entertain you from the first page to the last and a romance that will knock you off your feet. A proud addition to the weneeddiversebooks movement and one every Potterhead should embrace with open arms. A definite five lightning bolts from me (with Oreos on top! You’ll just have to read it to find out why).