by Olivia Loggia
From teen angst to excessive Oreo-eating, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli captures the essence of what it’s like to be a teenager. Narrated by 16-year-old Simon Spier, the reader follows Simon who braves high school as a gay teen who has not told anyone about his sexual identity.
Well, anyone except his email correspondant, who goes by the pen name Blue. Although the two don’t actually know each other’s real identities, they do know that they at- tend the same high school and both seem to completely get one another.
Their relationship over email grows quickly, and at first, things seem perfect. Finally, Simon has found someone he can be himself with. That is, until Simon’s emails get into the wrong hands. Suddenly, Simon finds himself being blackmailed—if he doesn’t do what his blackmailer says, his sexual identity will be publicly exposed. It’s a debut novel that’s an instant classic. Complete with sarcasm, teenage uncertainty and lots of witty commentary, Albertalli completely channels a 16-year-old boy’s thought process, in a way that’s both realistic and hilarious. In many instances, reading the novel feels like Simon’s thoughts were lifted from his head and placed onto the page.
More than that, the novel itself is very timely, especially as support for gay rights has become increasingly commonplace. High school is a microcosm for our larger society, and Albertalli populates the novel with characters who support Simon as well as those who don’t. But while the novel is on trend, it also explores the evergreen themes of the best YA fiction: relationships, drama and growing up, but in a way that’s distinctly modern.
While the novel is marketed as a story with a gay protagonist, the book’s content is much broader. Speaking to a wide audience of all teenagers, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is the perfect read for anyone looking for a coming-of-age story about a person’s journey of self-discovery.