As a member of the Fearless Fiteeners, I was able to read an ARC of Becky Albertalli’s young adult novel, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (4/7/2015; Balzer + Bray). ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are the uncorrected proofs that are sent to reviewers, librarians, and book bloggers to promote the book. My fellow fifteeners and 2k15 classmates are sending their ARCs on tour, which allows us a sneak peek at these upcoming new releases. I’ve decided to let you all know about the ARCs I’m reading to help support my 2015 debut colleagues.
Here’s the description: 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.
What I liked about it: I love this book for many reasons. Becky Albertalli’s debut novel is funny, romantic, heartbreaking at times, and filled with diverse characters you instantly love. The teen boy voice is perfect. I laughed out loud many times and even “awww”ed in places as Simon and his mysterious online crush, Blue, fell in love via email, from the inside out, as Simon says. One particular thing I loved about Simon is, while he struggles with coming out, it’s not because he hates himself for being gay. He’s not battling against familial or religious beliefs to accept his own sexual orientation. But, still, coming out isn’t easy. It means sharing a new, huge piece of personal information that must be absorbed by friends, family, and classmates, and then bracing for the responses that range from “no big deal” to mean-spirited acts. I loved when he says we should all come out, that heterosexual should not be the default. Later, I loved when friends and family reveal aspects of themselves, and Simon notes that everyone is always coming out in different ways. We slowly reveal important aspects of our lives to the people close to us. It’s always a risk and nerve-wracking, but necessary for personal growth.
About the author: Becky Albertalli was born and raised in the Atlanta suburbs. She attended college in Connecticut and freaked out about all the snow. She majored in psychology, moved to Washington, D.C., after school and earned a doctorate in clinical psychology. She worked for seven years with an incredible group of gender nonconforming kids in Washington, D.C. She currently lives in Roswell, Georgia. with her husband and toddler son. She spends her days writing about teenagers and reading board books about trucks.