Published by Balzer & Bray on April 7, 2015
Pages: 320 pages
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • 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.
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!
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
- 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.
- Shady 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.
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.