Sunday 21 August 2016
#CBR8 Book 91: "Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda" by Becky Albertalli
Rating: 4 stars
Simon Spier, middle child in a very close-knit family is sixteen years old and gay. Not that anyone but his pen pal Blue knows this, until class clown Martin looks over his shoulder at the library and discovers his secret. Simon suddenly finds himself blackmailed. Help Martin get a chance with his friend Abby, or Martin outs Simon to the whole school. This might also mean that Blue's identity is in some way compromised. Simon doesn't want to help Martin, but feels he doesn't have any other choice.
Simon doesn't really do drama, except in the sense of being part of the school musical. The fact that there are tensions among his life-long friends after Abby was added to the mix, and he's slowly falling more for Blue, who he's falling for, even though he doesn't know which of the boys in school it is, means Simon's life is becoming a lot more eventful and constantly pushes him out of his comfort zone. Will Simon continue to let Martin blackmail him? Will his friends Nick and Leah adjust to the fact that Nick is in love with Abby? Will Simon ever discover the true identity of Blue, and do they have a chance as a couple if he does?
Once again, I'm not the first of the Cannonballers to review this, and I'd also seen it very favourably written-up over on Forever Young Adult. I liked this book a lot, but I didn't absolutely love it, which I've seen some people out there do. The blackmail aspect really did make me uncomfortable, especially after SPOILER! Martin actually goes through with the threat of outing Simon on the high school Tumblr blog after it becomes obvious that Simon is never going to be able to make Abby really notice him (super d*ck move, Martin). I felt so awful for Simon and because I have been lucky enough to grow up cis-gendered, white and heteronormative, if severely geeky and a most definitely on the social outskirts, I never needed to worry about hiding parts of who I am/was. Simon and Blue discuss coming out at some length in their e-mails and the fact that Simon didn't get to choose when and how he told his family, friends and the rest of the world made me so upset.
When I read books like this, I hope that adolescents and teens today are aware of how incredibly lucky they are. I know that lack of representation and diversity is still a big problem in literature in general, but at least there is more of it out there than when I was a teen. There is such a vast variety of genres and so many topics being discussed, nothing like the fairly dour socially lecturing fare I grew up with, where everything written for teens seemed to be warning them off drugs, eating disorders, teenage pregnancy or HIV/AIDS. There wasn't really fantasy and sci-fi written specifically for teens. There certainly wasn't all these great books about contemporary teenagers and the issues they go through, which may seem trivial to many adults (like romance, most favoured genre of my heart, the YA category (it's NOT just one genre) is so often derised by literary snobs.
This was not one of the books in the Cannonball YA poll for the upcoming book club (because too many people had recently reviewed it, I think). It's still highly recommended to anyone who's looking for more contemporary YA to check out, where there isn't a chosen one fighting a dystopian regime or trying to single-handedly conquer a fantasy kingdom or something, but just trying to get by in their hormone-fuelled daily existence and trying to survive until adulthood. As far as I'm aware, this is Becky Albertalli's first novel, but I've already added her next book (out in April 2017) to my TBR list, because she is clearly one to watch.
Judging a book by its cover: I don't entirely know what I think about this cover. I can see why you'd want the headless body, so the reader can more easily insert their image of the character, but it also looks a bit creepy. Red is a nice, bright and noticeable background colour, though, and it would stand out if placed face forward on a shelf.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.