Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda » Review

Simon is a teenage boy. He goes to high school, loves drama club, and has a tight group of friends. His family is wacky, but are good people.  He has a great life... there's just a major complication at hand. Simon is gay and hasn't told anyone yet, excepting one person. That one person is his internet pen-pal, Blue, who Simon met on his school's tumblr devoted to gossip, secrets, and musings.

Blue is a gay, closeted, teenage boy as well, and he and Simon click through their emails to each other.  They have a lot in common, despite being very different personalities, and Simon is falling in love.

And then Simon forgets to log out of his email on a school computer and a kid named Martin grabs a few screenshots of his letters to Blue.  And then Simon is being blackmailed.

The blurb for the book tells us all of this, but doesn't let us know how Simon is being blackmailed — or for whatSo going into Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I was kind of preparing myself for the worst, like this was a Ellen Hopkins novel.  But we find out very quickly that all this Martin kid wants is an in with Simon's cheerleader friend, Abby. Phew. I was expecting something a lot darker.

But Simon is still absolutely incensed with Martin, and it's easy to see why that is. Martin could have chosen less silly demands, and that's scary.  Also, people are usually blackmailed because they've done something very wrong, something that they don't want others to know about. (An affair. The illegal lining of pockets. Etc.)  Simon did nothing wrong.  The society he lives in is progressive enough that his sexual orientation being known probably wouldn't wreck Simon's life, but the decision to and process of coming out is so personal and important that Martin's threatening to take it away from Simon is an outrage.

All of this — the frivolity of Martin's demands vs. the gravity of being blackmailed — is reflected in the prose of the book.  The tone is light and casual, except when it pauses to reflect on more serious matters.  This kept the book in the middle waters between the shallow end and the ear-popping 10 feet below, and I found it to be a very pleasant depth.

This excellent narrative voice was broken up by emails between Simon and Blue, but I never found myself skipping over them.  Instead, they were savored.  Lots of books have their narrations broken up in similar ways these days, and usually, it really annoys me.  But it was so well done in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I didn't pass over a single note between these two boys.

If I have any criticism of the book it's that the high school drama sometimes verged on pettiness, and Simon's voice could at times ride an immature  line. The latter was made okay by the fact that the voice was accurate for a teenager. The former was largely saved by Simon's spot-on reflections and observations on these topics that had me thinking more than once — YES! I've felt and thought that exact same thing before but never in such perfect words! 

Overall, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is an important book because it diversifies the mainstream YA genre, is quality work, and it speaks to problems that large numbers of teens face in this progressive, but not totally illuminated, world of ours.




  1. So many people have loved this, I really need to get a copy of it.

  2. It really was wonderful!

  3. The blackmailing thing had me worried at first, but it turned out to be non-consequential. I loved this novel, though. Easily one of my favourite reads in 2015!

  4. Yeah, once I saw "blackmailed" I, too, was alarmed. But, Martin turned out to be a pee-wee league extortioner.