For many of us, our high school experiences were defined by our identity. Some of us were considered jocks, cheerleaders, math nerds, indie kids, or drama geeks. Our labels were seen as one of the main ways in which our peers identified us. But what about our identities below the surface? In Becky Albertalli’s novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapien’s Agenda she explores the complex social dynamics of high school and the importance of being true to yourself.
Simon Spier is your average seventeen-year with a passion for Oreo’s and theater. He has a group of great friends and a family that is incredibly supportive. However, he is holding onto a secret that feels monumental. Albertalli invites us into Simon’s mind, as he struggles with the decision of whether or not to just say it- he’s totally gay.
The tangled social webs at Creekwood further complicate the decision for Simon to admit his sexuality. He can’t come out without jeopardizing the privacy of his email lover, Blue. Everything about Blue is perfect and he’ll do anything to preserve their cyber relationship. When Simon’s peer Martin gets his hands on their private emails, he threatens to tell the whole school unless Simon sets him up with Abby in return. Getting blackmailed wasn’t exactly on Simon’s high school bucket list and on top of that tensions arise within his group of friends. Can Simon piece together his cherished friendships while still maintaining Blue’s privacy? You’ll just have to read and find out.
“It’s weird, because Blue’s emails used to be this extra thing that was separate from my actual life. But now I think maybe the emails are my life. Everything else sort of feels like I’m slogging through a dream.”
While reading this book, I started to feel like I had just gone into a time machine back to the “glory days”. Albertalli captures the hearts, minds, and voices of teenagers perfectly in this novel. Simon’s character was so witty and sarcastic; it was hard not to feel like I was following the story of one of my own high school pals. Furthermore, the drama between Simon’s group of friends was eerily realistic. It reminded me of my own experiences of dealing with unrequited love, or just simply loving someone who loves someone else. As teenagers we tend to feel like the events happening in our lives are the only things that matter, because to the young mind, they are. This novel is so easy to relate to because of its empathy towards first loves and heartbreaks.
Its no wonder Albertalli was able to capture the teenage voice flawlessly; in college she majored in psychology and eventually earned a doctorate in clinical psychology. For seven years she worked with a group of gender nonconformity kids in Washington DC. Although Albertalli does not use her client’s stories in her fiction, readers can clearly see her experience with young adults through her writing.
“And this gay thing. It feels so big. It’s almost insurmountable. I don’t know how to tell them something like this and still come out of it feeling like Simon.”
The decision for LGBT youths to come out to their family and peers is by no means an easy one, but Albertalli is very careful when it comes to laying out the pros and cons of this decision. Blue and Simon both admit that opening up to others about their sexuality is extremely scary because they are unsure if they will be accepted. However, throughout the story readers can see that the freedom of being your true self is better than living behind a mask. Albertalli ultimately leaves the choice up to her readers, but her acceptance towards those struggling with sexual identity (whether it be gay or straight) is truly inspiring.
The Fountain had the pleasure of interviewing Albertalli about Simon vs. The Homo Sapien’s Agenda. She expands on gender identities, character analysis, and her own personal experiences. To read our interview with author Becky Albertalli click HERE.