Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

What a sweet, wonderful, (sadly) subversive book. The last twenty pages or so actually had me kind of weepy (in a good way), and if you know me at all you know how rare that is for a book. This and I'll Give You the Sun have reaffirmed my belief that yes, there IS, in fact, really excellent YA left in the world.

Like all the best books (I'm discovering), the marketing copy just really does not capture what makes this one so great. Come down to it, it's basically about gay-but-not-out 16-year-old Simon negotiating all the usual sixteen-year-old orders of business (school, friends, family, extracurriculars, crushes, feeling generally awkward & out of place), but with the added wrinkle of an anonymous email penpal about whom he knows nothing except that said penpal is a fellow gay-but-not-out junior boy at his school. Hijinks, turmoil, laughs, and all the feels ensue.

Really, what makes this book so fantastic (besides the fact that it's just really well written overall) is the genuine, believable feel of all of it. The kids sound, act, and talk like real teenagers and, like real teenagers, can't be easily pigeon-holed into the stereotypes that plague so much YA media (the bully, the hot girl, the nerd, the jock, the theater geek, etc.). High school feels like an actual, run-of-the-mill suburban high school and not like college or Gossip Girl or Saved By the Bell, which I feel like is something that adults who have not spent massive amounts of time in ordinary high schools with ordinary teenagers seem to lose sight of sometimes.

Also, mad props to Albertalli for a) writing a gay protagonist (1st person) who is just a normal kid and b) handling the whole teen boy coming out / figuring out how to relationship in such an earnest, thoughtful, brilliant way (particularly for someone who, as far as I know, has never been a gay boy). I basically want to give this book to everyone I know, so they can give it to everyone they know. All the stars.

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