Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: Review + Guest Post

March 30, 2015 2015, 4 star books, Becky Albertalli, food in books, guest post, lgbtq, realistic fiction, Wendy 28 ★★★★

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: Review + Guest PostSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Published by Balzer & Bray on April 7, 2015
Genres: contemporary
Pages: 320 pages
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonIndieboundBarnes & NobleGoodreads
four-stars
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.

When you take the chance on doing a cover reveal for a book you haven’t read yet, it’s a leap of faith: not only that the artwork is going to be eye-catching, but that the book is going to be awesome. When we hosted the cover reveal for Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda last year, I had a good feeling about the synopsis, but I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy the book! It’s a funny, sweet story about a boy who falls in love with the stranger who’s writing him letters–a stranger who seems to know Simon’s heart better than he does himself.

I liked that in this coming out/coming of age story, Simon is sure of his own sexuality, even though he’s painfully vulnerable because he’s not sure how everyone around him will react to his being gay. The book features complicated, realistic friendships, positive adult/teen relationships, and the awkward, nerve-wracking experience of coming out; it elicits both sympathetic humor over everyday observations and wincing empathy when Simon is bullied and blackmailed over his mysterious relationship. Simon’s narration feels believably self-deprecating and hopeful, and it accurately portrays the way so many boys deflect attention while yearning silently to be heard. There’s a great tenderness in the way the author writes her central character, and it’s all the more effective because you don’t even notice that she’s gently guiding your relationship with him.

The romance deserves its own separate tribute, because omg, you guys! It is super adorable. There’s so much to love here in the slow build-up of flirty messages, the breathless physical attraction to boys Simon thinks might be Blue, and the mystery of who this stranger really is. The romance kept me guessing right up until you finally find out who Simon’s love interest is, and the last few chapters are so flipping cute, I wanted to hug everybody in it and everybody in the whole world besides.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a book that features a “diverse” character, but Simon’s longing to be understood is universal. This book reaffirms my faith in love–not only the romantic kind, but the kind that we all should have for each other as human beings.

I’m so pleased that the author is back at The Midnight Garden today as part of the official blog tour to talk about how she found inspiration for Simon in her own life!

vine-divider-final Guest Post by Becky Albertalli

I’m often asked who inspired Simon’s character – and I never quite know what to say. He’s not exactly like any of my friends or family members. He’s definitely not based on any of my therapy clients. Truthfully, inspiration can be a subtle process, and it’s not always easy for me to understand. In some ways, it almost feels like Simon’s character appeared in my head, demanding to be written!

That being said, some of the connections are a little more straightforward – and, in fact, many of Simon’s experiences are lifted almost directly from my own life. So, if you need some convincing that art imitates life, I present:

The Top Five Simon Moments…Inspired by Actual Becky Moments

  1. Simon’s birthday. It’s the weirdest coincidence: Simon was born on November 17th…just like me. He got Rowling’d, big time. In the book, Simon’s friends celebrate birthdays in their group by bringing in sheet cakes to share at lunch. Sadly, that happened only in my fantasies – in my high school, we brought each other balloons to carry around. Still, birthdays were a big deal, and November 17th was the BIGGEST deal. I always wanted to find a book character who shared my birthday. I guess sometimes you have you have to take things into your own hands.
  1. map_of_sandy_springs_gaShady Creek and Creekwood High School. Simon lives in a fictional Atlanta suburb called Shady Creek, and he attends a school called Creekwood High School. I grew up in an Atlanta suburb called Sandy Springs, and I went to Riverwood High School (fun fact: it’s now known as Riverwood International Charter School). In the book, I namedrop Sandy Springs landmarks all over the place: Roswell Road, Perimeter Mall, and a particular Waffle House that (tragically) closed down after the book was sold.
  1. Simon’s “Proudest Moment.” Actually, his least proud moment. In the very first email we see from Simon to Blue, he tells the story of how he ran and hid from his eighth grade girlfriend in a bathroom stall during a school dance. Unfortunately, this moment in the book was inspired by my own awfulness in middle school. In seventh grade, I did the exact same thing when I heard a particular boy was planning to ask me to dance at Sara Cott’s bat mitzvah. To this day, I consider it the single meanest thing I’ve ever done, and I’m completely ashamed of it. The weird part? I did kind of want to dance with the boy. I was just really immature.
  1. Nick Eisner cookies. Simon and his sisters have a delicious tradition of eating chocolate cookies with a glop of peanut butter on top – and they call these cookies “Nick Eisners,” after Simon’s best childhood friend. Simon explains that this particular combination earned its name because Nick thought this was how peanut butter cookies worked. This was very much inspired by a delicacy known among my family as “Kevin Binswangers.” Kevin Binswangers are chocolate chip cookie/vanilla ice cream sandwiches. Our friend Kevin Binswanger once sold them for a fundraiser, probably twenty years ago. (Hi, Kevin!)
  1. The Shoreo. If you know anything about Simon, you probably know he’s super into Oreos. In an email to Blue, he describes a fantasy place he and his sisters invented called “the Shoreo,” where you get to sit on a giant Oreo and float down a river made of Oreo milkshakes. This is completely based on a fantasy I had as a kid, loosely based on a scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Whenever I was hungry, I imagined myself in a world made entirely of Oreos and Oreo products – and it always included that Oreo milkshake river. I think it’s my happy place, even today.

About the AuthorView More: http://thedecisivemoment.pass.us/becky-headshots

Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers; some of these experiences inspired her debut novel. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, DC. These days, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons, and writes very nerdy contemporary young adult fiction.  Visit her at www.beckyalbertalli.com and on Twitter: @beckyalbertalli.
Images courtesy of the publisher, author, and Town Maps USA.

vine-divider-finalOur thanks to Becky for sharing her crazy Oreo daydreams and awkward middle grade embarrassments with us!

Be sure to pick up a copy of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda when it’s released next week. This was the first book I read in 2015, and I’m pretty sure there isn’t another one that can unseat it from its Throne of Cute. The last time I had this much gooey feeling over a book, it was with A Little Something Different–and with Simon, you also get skillful characterization and a story that is bigger than the sum of its parts.

simon tweet

I’m still waltzing around with joy over the fact that this book exists. If my slobbering love for the book and Becky’s hilariously revealing guest post still haven’t persuaded you, you can check out the first seven chapters of the book online at Epic Reads. But I promise you–the last few chapters are the absolute best.

Wendy signature teal

 

 

 

P.S. I’m so sorry that our Secret Garden readalong post has been delayed! I feel terrible about it, but I’m in the middle of an intensely busy time offline, so I’ve had to reschedule it for this upcoming Friday, April 3rd. My sincere apologies for the delay.

28 Responses to “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: Review + Guest Post”

  1. Alexa S.

    I can’t wait to read Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda! It seriously sounds like such an adorable read, just based on the reactions it’s been eliciting from the bloggers I follow. So glad that it’s proven to be an enjoyable book that lives up to its interesting cover!
    Alexa S. recently posted…Time Travel To: Regency England

  2. Brenda

    No Worries on the Secret Garden, I enjoyed it BTW, you always have such great selections. I can’t wait for Simon ever since I heard it compared to You’ve Got Mail, it sounds incredibly sweet!

    • Wendy Darling

      Thank you so much for understanding, Brenda! It’s the first time I’ve failed on that front for our classics, and I feel so bad about it, but I wanted to make sure it was a good discussion. Thank you for being so great about it, and I look forward to chatting with you Friday! I’m so, so happy to hear that you are enjoying the selections for the readalongs, too. It warms my little heart. <3

      And yesss you must read SIMON. Everyone in the world must read SIMON.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

  3. Layla

    I have this waiting for me at home and am really excited to read it. (Have been since I saw how much you loved it!) As always, I’m 100% a fan of any book that explores what it’s like to be an LGBTQ-identified teen in a compelling and engaging way – and this sounds absolutely wonderful. I love the trope of “falling in love through letters” (probably thanks to You’ve Got Mail, but whatevs).

    Loved the interview with the author – though it also made me hungry. Cookies! Sheet cakes! ::eats the entire universe in a single gulp:: I also really like the idea of a Shoreo, and am adding that to the ever-growing list of things that just make me feel hungry all the time.
    Layla recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m so glad you have a copy, Layla! Text me all your feeeeeels.

      I’ll be honest–I liked the first half of the book, but I wasn’t quite seeing why people were so excited over it until the second when I turned into a gibbering pile of AWWWWW SO CUTE and making cooing noises at the book. It’s adorable and I love that it’s a romantic comedy (with some meat to it) for lgbtq teens. Gay boys need romance, too! Especially fluffy ones!

      The book was actually pitched as “YOU’VE GOT MAIL featuring gay teen boys with good grammar,” hah. And of course, that was based on THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, for those of us caught up on our old TMC classics.

      Becky is always a delight, too. I’m so happy people are enjoying this, she deserves all the praise for being a great writer and an all-around lovely person. Although she DOES have that tendency to make me crave cookies at incredibly inappropriate times.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

  4. Larissa

    I won this one from this blog [; autographed and it came with oreos, which I gotta say was quite the prize. I utterly adored Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda from start to finish.

    Simon is a gem of an main character. When I first read this one I’d been in a bit of a slump, and it was his narration that drew me into the book right away. Simon’s voice just felt so natural, and like you said Becky has this magical ability to craft Simon into a character we can’t help feel for. He’s just so genuine and humorous, which makes his story feel so realistic and allows me to just connect.

    The romance <33 SO FLUFFY AND CUTE AND ADORABLE. The e-mails and the mystery surrounding them was just undeniably authentic and totally had me giggling like a school girl ;p There was some great banter, but also some serious conversations- all of the perfect foundations to a relationship. Ahhhh, and when the mystery was revealed I was definitely satisfied.

    Lovely review Wendy! And of course Becky has once again made me crave oreos. Swear that is truly her one mission in life [;
    Larissa recently posted…Review: Hold Me Like A Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

    • Wendy Darling

      Larissa darling! I’ve missed you, I’m so sorry I’ve been so absent lately. Life has been even more insane and stressful than usual lately, I hope things are good on your end.

      I’m so happy you won the copy from the cover reveal–and even more happy that you love the book! I agree, his voice felt so easy and authentic, and without there being overly dramatic scenes or angst, you really do feel so much for him. I LOVED the humor. We’ve talked about this a lot, about how great it is when books are funny. Because life is funny, even during some of the serious times.

      And yessssss so cute! I loved that the emails kept us guessing–I had theories, but I truly didn’t know who it was going to be for a long time. I’m glad the red herring of the “unlikely suspect” didn’t turn out to be the case, tbh–it was a neat idea and definitely would have been interesting, but it felt more emotionally right and non-maneuvering to have it turn out the way it did. Also, more realistic.

      BANTER. I love banter.

      Yay for Simon love. <3 That Becky really does have an Oreo fixation, and darn it all if she hasn't infected countless readers with this, too.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

  5. Carina Olsen

    But.. but.. oh. NOW I WANT THIS BOOK, WENDY! Shame on you. I didn’t think I would like this book. As I haven’t really been paying attention while reading about it, lol, but then you post this review. Hmph. And it sounds so sweet. And the romance! And I want it. And now I might most likely have to buy it. Hmph. How mean of you, lol :) Anyway. Gorgeous review sweetie. <3 I am so happy you loved this book. It seems so cute :)
    Carina Olsen recently posted…The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

  6. Hannah

    What a wonderful review! I am so looking forward to what seems like a fabulous, cute contemporary. I’m also so glad to see so many LGBQT YA books where narrators get a happy ending, rom-com style, as opposed to the angst and sadness which permeated so many of the earlier books in the genre (IMO.) (Not to say there isn’t a place for angst and sadness, but you get what I mean.) (Long comment is long!)
    Hannah recently posted…Review: The Young Elites – Marie Lu

    • Wendy Darling

      Thank you! It’s a wonderful book that just makes your heart happy.

      I totally agree–it’s a relief to read lgbtq book that is more lighthearted (although it certainly addresses some serious stuff). We certainly need serious lgbtq stories too, but we also want the adorable romances! BRING ON THE FLUFFY FEELINGS!

      On a more serious note, I feel as though this sort of thing also helps to “normalize” it in our culture. Which is, sadly, still something that’s still needed.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

  7. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    *hugs* Don’t you worry about the readalong post, life can be so overwhelming sometimes!! I’m really looking forward to it, but I don’t mind the delay!

    And I’m so excited about this book! I have it preordered and I cannot wait for it to arrive so I can start reading it as soon as I open the parcel! I haven’t heard anything that amazing praise for this book, so I’m beyond excited for it now, and I’m not usually a big fan of contemporaries!

    Must buy Oreos to have them handy once I get hit by the cravings after reading all about Oreos in the book!!

    Thank you for an amazing guest post Wendy and Becky!!
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…Mark This Book Monday: The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson!!

    • Wendy Darling

      *gratefully accepts all the hugs*

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t even tell you how stressful the past few days have been, I’ve been alternating between exhausted and sleeping for 12 hours straight. I looked at the discussion document and thought I could just wing it, but Layla and Kim both brought up points I wanted to respond to, so I thought it was better to wait and try to do it a little bit of justice.

      But YES! You will like this book so, so much. The second half is all kinds of cute, it really puts you in such a good mood. And a mood that lasts, hah, given the evidence of all the praise for it and how I’m still smiling thinking about it all these months later. :)

      OREOS FOR SURE. Always.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

  1. Top Ten Tuesday (14): - The Midnight Garden

    […] Becky Albertalli – I loved Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (Oreos! gay teens in love! falling in love through letters! Harry Potter slash!) and can’t wait to read whatever Albertalli writes next. I know Wendy loved this one, too. […]