Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is worth putting on a pedestal for more than its gay lead, but how it handles the drama of his nearly perfect life.
|Genre||LGBT, Young Adult, Romance|
17-year-old junior, Simon, has a very ideal life. His older and younger sister he has strong bonds with, his corny, but very much in love parents, are doting, though only suffocating sometimes, and he has the best friends. Nick he has known since he was 4, Leah since middle school, and the newest friend Abby? Despite her just transferring in at the beginning of the year, she has quickly become one of his favorite people.
Yet, what ruins this nearly perfect life is that while Nick, Leah, and Abby are free to date, and there is a bit of competition for Nick, there isn’t anyone for Simon. Well, there are girls who’d love to date him but… he’s gay. On top of that, he is gay and currently in the closet. Not in terms of, still questioning or anything like that. After 3 girlfriends, he knows for sure. It is just, with Simon not wanting things to drastically change over nothing, coming out has never been something he felt he needed to do.
However, with him learning there is another gay kid at school, who goes by Blue, on top of the ones which already exist, he finds himself curious about this person who anonymously outted themselves. In fact, they have so many back and forth e-mails, it is like they are the girl who never left the shore talking to the man she met once and writes to as often as possible. Think The Notebook – the movie, I can’t speak for the book.
But, despite how happy speaking to Blue makes Simon, there is the issue of not knowing who he is and Blue being rather cagey about information. Because Blue isn’t as comfortable in who he is as Simon, for reasons you understand as you learn who Blue is, and also taking note that Simon makes it clear the book takes place in Georgia. Mind you, a town in Georgia close to Atlanta, one of the southern gay capitals in the US, but it is still Georgia.
Which makes Martin accidentally, then purposefully using the e-mails he saw of Blue and Simon’s correspondence hell. For while Martin is kind of using them as a ends to a means to get closer to Abby, Simon doesn’t want to lose Blue as quickly as he found him. So, against his will, Simon tries to invite Martin to situations where Martin can try to shine. Which does lead to some moments where the ever-cheery Abby does find some appeal in Martin. However, like Leah, her focus is mostly on Nick and while she is friendly, it is clear there can only be one.
Leaving Simon constantly under threat of losing what could be his first true love and desperate to know who is the boy behind the e-mail address.
Blue and Simon’s Love Story
Though they don’t meet until the end, you have to enjoy how their relationship develops from Simon finding Blue’s message on Tumblr to them sharing information about friends, family, sexual feelings (all PG-13), and Simon wanting a future for them. Much less, how it establishes that, despite there being some gay kids at school, them being called fags makes it clear, as much as the school is close to one of the southern gay capitals in America, Atlanta, they are still very much in Georgia. Meaning, even after they meet and are together, there is an awareness that they can’t necessarily hold hands openly.
But, taking a step back, you also have to enjoy the element of mystery of Simon hoping it is this person, that person, or even fearing maybe it was Martin all along. It isn’t a deep and probing mystery, but after you have fallen for Simon, and pretty much want for him what you can see Leah, Nick, and Abby easily having, you just want the best for him. So just as he desperately wants to know who is Blue, so do you and it makes you read into a bit more every boy he names and try to compare how they talk or are described to the clues Blue lets slip.
Martin Is Handled To Be Redeemable
Comparing to the film, Martin, while a douche for what he did to Simon, seems like he actually had charm and could be interesting, it is just he was but another kid in the class. In fact, Simon talks about quite a few of his peers this way which helps you understand why Martin put Simon in the position he did. It’s easy to be funny, kind, smart, and all that, but it doesn’t make it so people gravitate to you. Especially if you are a guy and are relying more on your personality than looks.
I should add, there even comes a point where it sounds like Simon could actually enjoy having Martin around, if it wasn’t for him tainting the friendship with blackmail. Also, Abby kind of likes him too. That is, until it is revealed what he did.
The Way The Internal Drama Is Handled
You got a love triangle to start things off, which has Leah be as sarcastic as can be when dealing with Abby, alongside Abby learning she was a game piece in Simon being blackmailed. When it comes to this book, it avoids a lot of the usual ways these type of storylines are handled. When it comes to the love triangle, Simon pretty much stays out of it. He does see the Martin situation as a means to make everyone happy, but he only provides opportunities for Martin, he doesn’t force him into the situation.
Also, despite Leah not liking Abby that much, they don’t fight or even have verbal altercations really. Leah makes it known she isn’t fond of Abby, but not to the point she seems nasty about it. To be honest, with the way Leah is presented to us, I’m sure Abby probably is able to write it off as Leah being Leah since she can be an acquired taste, even to Simon.
Something that can even be seen by how Simon coming out, or being outed, is handled. With Abby learning about it first, naturally Leah is upset and with him being so supportive of Abby and Nick eventually dating, and not asking her to hang as much, she especially gets pissed. Yet, like with Martin, Simon makes sure to build in understanding to the situation so while there remains a certain element of, “Oh, get over yourself” at the same time you get it.
Leaving how Abby handles being used to keep Simon’s secret. Is she royally pissed? No. However, there is a need to distance herself from Simon for a bit to think the situation over and figure out a way to move on. To put it simply, you see the type of maturity and development with these moments rarely afforded to teen characters.
Simon’s Relationship With His Parents And Sisters
It is kind of strange how the book lays out that Simon is very privileged yet doesn’t present his family as foreign or just too perfect. Yes, the family watching TV together seems too cute to exist, but also they don’t seem to talk much. Alice and Nora barely talk about their lives outside the house and the mom, who is a child psychologist, pretty much has to use her degree and bargaining to learn anything. Yet, despite them sometimes seeming distant, we see them come together when it matters most and it is shown they are willing to open up to one another. It is just, like Simon coming out, Alice having her family meet her boyfriend Theo, and Nora revealing where she disappears off to, they love their family so much they wanna be sure about something before introducing it.
A curious, but actually good way to handle not having the self-proclaimed nosy Simon tell us everything about his family.
The Book Addresses The Lack of Development, In Terms of Knowing Simon’s Friend’s Parents and Family, In The Best Way
Something which is also used when it comes to Simon’s friends not being developed past their relationship with Simon. Simon simply states to us, while he is nosy, it is often about the superficial. Despite how long he has known Abby, it isn’t until they are 6 or so months in he asks about her dad and brother, who are still in DC. Even with the length of time Simon has known Leah, it seems only now he has gotten around to asking her about what happened with her dad.
And while it could seem like a cop-out, consider that no one knows everything about everyone. Some things, like being gay, despite Simon knowing for years, he kept to himself. Leah, when it comes to her dad, and the way she is, may have never brought it up because she doesn’t want to talk about it and have the subject poked and prod. Then with Abby, being that she is a happy go lucky person, having those types go into the darkness, talk about things which make them unhappy, and matters like that, sometimes is difficult. Especially if you rely on their joy and optimism to be a lighthouse for you. Much less, similar to Leah, they decide to not dwell on things which bother them about their parents, or other people, since there are more pressing issues.
It Addresses Simon’s Privilege
Whether it is a supporting and loving family, friends who gravitate to him, alongside even having a safe coming out experience, similar to Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness, it is noted Simon’s story isn’t necessarily a norm. He notes how kids in his school are called a fag, Martin lets him know that his life is on easy street, and also taking into consideration we are made to be aware Simon is attractive, he has it made. So, the book makes it clear that Simon’s whole life is rather ideal and subtly pushes that while it is rooted in realism, it can’t fully be seen as realistic.
On The Fence
Sex Isn’t Treated As The End Goal In The Book
For most of the YA novels I have read, having sex is part of the rites of passage. And yet, despite the mention of boners, oral, and the opportunity to have sex, this isn’t done. Which, on one hand, you have to appreciate because the book tries to be different, yet there is also the question of why? Though books like Everything, Everything may not have hot and steamy sex scenes, nor most John Green novels, it is noted as a thing which people who love each other do. Now, could it be writer Becky Albertalli didn’t want to go into the details of two men having sex? Maybe thought, for once, can we show intimacy without sexual contact, or perhaps wanted to remind us these two just physically met, they are each other’s first love and may want to take it slow? Who knows.
It is hard to not appreciate how much this book tries to be different and makes good decisions in doing so. It wants to present a gay character who doesn’t have a heterosexual storyline with a sexuality twist. The book wants to push getting to know, grow, and develop relationships, while showing them as imperfect. No matter if friend, family, or romantic. And ultimately, despite the various drama that can be seen, it never goes for the soap opera styled dramatics. People are given the right and speak on being upset. However, these teenagers are presented with the type of maturity teenagers often aren’t given credit for having.
Hence the positive label. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is an apt title. It goes against the outline and agenda most YA novels have and forges one which works for it and goes against the grain. Producing the type of book which seems more about relating to its potential audience than simply trying to provide them some passing entertainment that presents a form of diversity.