Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli
I've read a lot of reviews about Simon, and have learned that apparently the book is written by a straight white women for straight white women. I'm trying to hold that in my mind as I write this review, but knowing that I was the target audience for this book doesn't actually change the experience for me, so I'm just going to let you know that I absolutely fell for this book, as apparently I was supposed to.
I enjoyed this book, from beginning to end. It is based on Simon Spier's romantic quest to discover true love (hopefully with his mysterious email boyfriend Blue he's been spending so much time on the internet with). He's gay and not out yet, and his status gets shifty when he is blackmailed: set up his blackmailer with a friend of his or his secret will be revealed.
What I enjoyed the most about the book was how well Albertelli captured the teenage mind, with all the confusion and turmoil and random joy. The way he grapples with being a teenager, and a human, with immense massive thoughts and changes is incredibly relatable. The use of first person point of view worked really well. And I think it's tricky to do because teenagers can also be really self-absorbed, but Simon was truly adorable.
When he gets drunk for the first time (off of one beer!), he needs to be by himself to process how he feels about passing this milestone. The overanalyzing, the making huge deals about everything, I remember this feeling perfectly from when I was a teenager.
I need to spend some time in my head with this new Simon.
Simon's crush on Blue was kind of perfect - I loved how their relationship developed from a shared bond over a common secret, into something deeper. It was sweet and sexy and as a reader I don't think you can help rooting for them. I liked the clues built into the emails - I guessed definitively the identity of Blue halfway through, and then I thought Simon was dense for not getting it.
Some parts of the book were a little problematic, though. The whole premise, the blackmailing, was extremely vile, especially as the goal was for some random guy to get a woman to date him, as if she had no agency to decide on her own. I couldn't imagine the bitterness that would cause someone to follow through on those kinds of threats, too. And in such a violent way. It was a disgusting violation and made me queasy to think of. I did not like that Simon essentially befriended his blackmailer, there was nothing okay about what he did and I would never want anyone to think that maybe it was.
Altogether, though, Simon has a lovely group of friends, a fun cast of characters, and you know he will be supported as he goes through this emotional chapter of his young life. I thought it was delightful, and I hope we see more and more books that normalize the LGBTQ teen experience, because I think it's very important for all kids to see their experience shared in pop culture.