Tags: LGBT, love, male-male romance, Young Adult
Genre: Belletristik, Romantik
I have to admit that I’m not really a reader who pays a lot of attention to diversity when it comes to picking books and this is not because I don’t find the representation of people with different ethnical backgrounds, sexual orientations, religious beliefs or whatever not important but rather because it doesn’t really matter to me if a book character is white, black, straight, gay, Christian, Muslim or else as long as the story of a book is good and manages to captivate me. So the fact alone that Becky Albertalli’s YA coming-of-age novel „Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda“ features a gay protagonist didn’t make it special and a must-read for me but after all this hype I just had to give in eventually and find out by myself what the buzz is all about.
Would a boy-boy love story be relatable for me?
Before I start with my actual review here’s another confession: I usually try to avoid romantic books and read only one or two a year for special occasions (like Christmas for example) and since I’ve never read a boy-boy love story before I was a little bit worried if I would be able to relate to the characters because IF a romance actually wants to convince me than this is a basic requirement. So let’s start talking about „Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda“ with something positive and that’s the fact that I never at any point had the feeling that it was weird to read a gay love story because it felt so normal and that’s definitely the way it should be. It’s really difficult to find the right words to not accidentally come over as being homophobic but people’s sexuality just isn’t a big deal for me and I’m SO glad that Becky Albertalli didn’t make it one. The worst that could’ve happened to the book would have been if the author had pigeon-holed her protagonist Simon Spier simply as „the gay boy“ and not giving him a personality that goes beyond defining him by his sexual orientation.
A story about falling in love and not just about being gay
Of course being gay and therefore belonging to a minority is likely to be difficult for a teenager and provides probably even more challenges than the typical puberty so that it’s no surprise that Simon’s sexual orientation automatically becomes an important topic of the book – especially because he’s still struggling with how to come out to this friends and family – but it’s never the ONE topic that defines the story. Basically „Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda“ is just the story of two young people falling in love and about friendship and one of my favorite parts of the book was when Simon thought about if it shouldn’t become a standard for everyone to have a coming out and not just when your sexual orientation differs from what society regards as the „default“ and reading this I couldn’t hide a smile because I was picturing nervous teenagers awkwardly confessing to their parents that they’re straight.
Who is „Blue“?
As you might probably know I barely read any YA contemporaries and am a heavy thriller addict instead and the crime reader inside me was pleasantly surprised to find out that Becky Albertalli’s book provided an interesting mystery that let me try out my crime-solving skills. Of course there’s no murder case in „Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda“ but since Simon’s love story mostly evolves through e-mail conversations with his anonymous internet crush finding out the identity of the person on the other end of the computer becomes quite an important part of the story and I had a lot of fun looking for clues and checking out possible „suspects“. And while trying to find out who’s behind the pen name „Blue“ didn’t present me with a great challenge and I was on the right track quite early in the book I still had a great time collecting more and more „evidence“ for my theory.
A cute love story, but not the most touching one
So as you can see I definitely enjoyed „Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda“ a lot, however I still had some difficulties finding out where this massive hype for the book comes from. I really hope it’s not just because the protagonist is gay because this wouldn’t do both the book and the protagonist justice because they don’t deserve to be reduced to Simon’s sexual orientation but I also didn’t really see what exactly makes Becky Albertalli’s coming-of-age story that much more special than any other YA contemporary. Please don’t get me wrong, I really liked the book and also the characters (well, at least the ones we were supposed to like *glares at the ignorant asshole guy in the book*) but somehow I found the story a bit too normal and I feel really stupid saying that because I also think that feeling so normal is one of the big strengths of Albertalli’s novel. I know I’m contradicting myself but while I appreciated that the author didn’t make Simon’s sexual orientation a big deal and just made it a LOVE STORY and not a GAY LOVE STORY, „Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens“ agenda just didn’t hit me in the feels like John Green’s „The Fault in Our Stars“ or Andrew Smith’s „Winger“ for example did. I’m glad the author avoided most of the typical teenage drama that always annoys me in YA contemporaries but somehow Simon’s story just didn’t touch me emotionally the way I had expected it to do since especially the first haft of the book was mostly just the everyday teenage school life without a lot actually going on. But if you’re looking for a cute love story with relatable characters and a fun little mystery then Becky Albertalli’s „Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda“ definitely won’t disappoint – and now excuse me, I have to find me some Oreos…
Winger hit you in the feels? Really? I didn’t get the impression that it was supposed to. xD
I’m (still) trying to figure out how to explain why this book is so special, and I’m trying to decide if this book would have been special to me if Simon had been yet another boring old straight white boy (no offense ;P). To be honest, I think the answer is „no.“ Sure, I would have thought it was cute, but what really sets this book apart is that it’s exactly what the diverse book campaign needs—Simon vs. celebrates diversity without relying on stereotypes or making it an Issues Book. Yes, Simon is gay, and he shows readers that, *gasp*, despite being gay, he’s just like every other teenager out there. He certainly has some struggles that are unique to being gay, but these too are presented in a way that makes Simon relatable, rather than „other.“ That’s what YA needs, because unfortunately something that should be obvious to everyone is a really foreign concept for way too many people. I agree that the normal-ness of this books is one of its strengths. I do wonder if it will resonate as much with future generations, but it’s certainly relevant for readers now.
To some extent, I don’t think you’re the kind of reader who would ever fully appreciate this book, just because it’s not your favorite genre. Yes, Winger is a YA contemporary, but Simon vs. is very much a YA contemporary ROMANCE, and that makes a difference. I wouldn’t call Winger romantic (or cute) at all. The Fault in Our Stars and Dash & Lily do count as YA contemporary romance, but in the first case, there’s a lot more going on than just the romance, and in the latter, I have to say that the romance didn’t really give me any feels at all. The idea, yes, the people? Not so much. Simon is just so *likeable*, that’s all there is to it. But you don’t read books for the „awww“ effect, and that’s okay. For me, what I loved most about Simon vs. is that it felt like getting a big hug. I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time I read it, and that’s what I was looking for.
Have you forgotten about the ending of „Winger“? oO
I hope you’re still happy with my review/rating even though I couldn’t „fully appreciate“ the book ;D
I wouldn’t call „Winger“ cute or romantic either but it was the ending that gave me the emotions that I missed in „Simon vs…“, that’s why my rating for that one was still a bit higher.
And I have to say that I could definitely relate to Lily in „Dash & Lily’s…“ ;D
*Here’s another big hug* 😉
Um…yes? /o\ (We’ll need to talk about this on Monday. xD)
I’m definitely happy with it! And that you read it with me. ;D