Title: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publishing Date: 7th of April 2015
Number of Pages: 303
Publishing House: Balzer + Bray (US), Epica (RO)
Genre: Young Adult
Cover Type: Paperback
When I first heard of this subject, it was when the movie has appeared in the Romanian cinemas in June 2018. I saw the promotion and thought it was interesting. I waited till later on and I think I have managed to see the movie in like September or so, the same year, and of course not in cinemas. :))
Well, time passed and I had no idea that the movie was inspired by a book, until this year (2019) when I received the book as a present for my birthday. Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and I saw the book. And as I am so keen to tell you the exact chronology of it, I must tell you that eight more months have passed till I actually had the chance to read it (my reading list is huge, so many times I have to wait pretty long until getting to a specific book. There are books that are in my bookshelf since five years ago and still haven’t read them. Shame on me).
Anyway, the book presents the life in Creekwood, a Highscool in Tenessee, US (at least this is what Saint Google sais about the location of Creekwood High). The plot concentrates on the life of Simon Spier, a teenager who isn’t very social and who grew up in a supposedly open-minded family, but pretty weird in it’s essence. He seems to have a normal life, but he hides a secret. He is gay, and he doesn’t have the courage to reveal himself. At least not yet. He wants to do it when he is prepared, and in his own terms. But things don’t always turn up as planned. The emails he exchanges with Blue, a boy he met over the internet, are found by Martin Addison, an opportunist guy who tries to blackmail him with this information in order to get the girl he likes. Now Simon must choose between loyalty towards his friend and his own secret. Things get even more complicated as he starts having feelings for Blue, and he knows that publishing those emails would make him run away.
As it was expected, I liked the book much better than the movie. The feelings of Simon were described in more detail and made me feel more empathetic toward him. Also the novel was not so cheesy as the movie, which I felt it was more like a teenage comedy, while the book was directed more towards the psychology of the characters, their fears, their desires.
Simon is a teenager that learns how to be himself, not to fear what he is and to express his feelings. His friends are important to him, because in a certain way this demonstrates to him that he is valuable, that he is worth something for somebody. But, when he finds Blue, he discoveres a new feeling. One he has never felt before, even though he had a couple of girlfriends in the past, in his attempt to deny who he is. He has contradictory feelings towards his family, and telling his friends that he is gay seems so damn hard, as he knows them ever since he was a child. When his friend, Leah found out that she wasn’t the first to find out he was gay, she was very dissapointed, but she did’t understand the fact that coming out to your best friend is harder than coming out to a person who is almost a stranger. Why? Because a stranger doesn’t have many expectations from you and you are not as attached to him, you don’t care as much about his or her opinion. A close friend, especially one you know since childhood, is like your family.
Simon’s parents don’t have a very important role in the story, but they are present, and their psychological profile is pretty interesting to notice. They try to be those open minded, cool parents, but behind this comfortable behavior they try to display, they hide many insecurities. First of all, they sometimes treat Simon as a child. I mean he is still a teenager, but he is capable to decide for himself, thing that they don’t know or, better said, they refuse to accept. Why? Beucase they are those typical parents that are afraid to leave their children grow up. They are afraid that their children growing up means they leaving them alone at some point. They display a mask of confidence to hide their fears. They use protection of their children as an excuse, not knowing that protecting them too much will hurt them. Actually, protecting their children to much they actually try to protect themselves. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons Simon is so afraid of telling them the truth. Because he knows that them being open minded actually hides their prejudices.
The book also concentrates on the evolution of the characters. Actually I think this is actually the main focus on the book, which is constructed as a Bildungsroman. And, although the bildungsroman defines the evolution of the protagonist from child to adult, I would extend this evolution to various characters in this book, even the adults. The characters I think that evolved during this book are Simon, of course, Blue, Nora (Simon’s little sister), and even Simon’s parents, as they learn to be more understanding towards their son and accept the fact that they were wrong and that their insecurities made him suffer one way or another. But just to stick to the definition of the bildungsroman, I will just say that the characters, other than Simon, evolved and learned from their mistakes.
Another character that surprised me in the end was Martin. If at the beginning his actions presented him as being a selfish guy with nothing to care for but himself, in the end he proves to actually have feelings and understand the consequences of his actions. I don’t know if I am right, but I think he is actually being that selfish because he doesn’t have any friends, and he would do whatever it takes to have some. His popularity in the highschool is only thanks to his weirdness, and he knows that. He just wants to be normal, to be accepted. But he commits the typical mistake that most people do in this case. He tries too hard to be popular and to catch some attention. And the result is almost always the opposite. Even though he is somehow the negative character in this story, he isn’t actually bad. He is only hurt, emotionally speaking.
Now, talking about Blue, I see him as an intelligent guy who knows perfectly well who he is and what are the consequences of that, but who waits for the perfect opportunity to reveal his orientation. His family history makes him a bit afraid of a relationship, or at least this is the impression he created to me, but he wants to overcome this fear if he finds the right person. He is much more aware than Simon and he knows that, the moment he will make the step, there will be no going back. So he analyses the situation from every single angle to make sure he is making the right decision. Even his nickname, Blue, reveals something about his character. Blue is a word with a double meaning. First, the color blue is a color of peace and serenity, but on the other hand blue is used to describe sadness. I think he is a combination of both. He is in peace with himself, but is a bit sad at the thought that the society might not accept him for who he is. On the other hand, the asociation with green, the other name that completes his email address, suggests that he is ready for his new life. Green is the color of life, renewal, nature, and energy. I think for him this suggests the fact that he sees his coming out as a rebirth, as if the moment he decides to admit to the world that he is gay he will start a new life. You might say that it is too much of an analysys and that he didn’t actually think about this. Did he? Well we don’t have evident proof about this, but the author constructed him as a pretty intelligent and analytical guy, so I think that he did. I see him as being more balanced than Simon, maybe because of his family status. Simon grew up in a complete family, while Blue’s parents are divorced. All we know about him is that his parents are divorced and that he is a jew. Over time, he gives more than one clue to Simon for who he is, but Simon is so concentrated on his idea that he is absolutely blind to every clue. It depends on him on whether to read the signs or stick to his blindness.
The name of the novel seems to be a parody of the term “homosexual agenda”, a pejorative phrase that was used by anti gay activists in the United States, until the growth of the gay acceptance into the society made the use of this term no longer socially acceptable.
Overall I liked the novel very much, but I think the author made it very short. I mean I think that, if she would have developed more on the subject, she could have made something much better and interesting, and detach the book from that typical American young adult novel. The story has a lot of pottential that hasn’t been explored. The psychological background of the author is obviously evident, and the fact that it explores homosexuality is also a good start point for a great story, as sexual orientation is still a bit tabu these days. I thought it was interesting and at the same time funny what Simon told Blue in one if his emails, that it would be better if not only gay people would have to come out with their orientation, but also the straight people. In fact, this is one of the facts that I didn’t like about the movie. They made this statement as that cheesy funny subject to explore, when in fact I felt Simon was being pretty serious when saying that. Homosexuality is also the main reason why the main actor, Nick Robinson, currently 24, accepted this role in the first place, because he saw the cultural importance of it, breaking his own rule not to play a high school teenager any more.
The film was considered ground-breaking because it was the first major studio film to focus on a gay, teenage romance. Nick Robinson declared that the same period they started filming, his own brother revealed himself as being gay, and he said that the fact that he was filming the movie made it easier for him to talk to his brother over this fact. And moreover, the actor playing Blue, Keiynan Lonsdale, actually was inspired by the movie to come out as bysexual, it made it a lot easier for him. I think this is one of the most important aftermath that are resulting after the writing of this book, because it helps people be who they are.
In the end, my personal evaluation for it would be a four out of five, because of the reason I mentioned above: the potential of the book is not fully explored and the author hasn’t said all that could have been said about this subject. Overall, I think that it is worth reading and I will be preparing for the next volume.
© picnicontheshelf, September 16, 2019