In brief: Simon’s in trouble. He forgot to log out of his Gmail at school and now he’s being blackmailed unless he helps Martin get together with his friend Abby. It’s made even worse that Simon’s fallen for Blue over email – no way does he want this relationship to end before it even begins!
The good: There’s no big deal about Simon being gay. And that’s the way it should be.
The not-so-good: It was a little too neat and cute at times for me.
Why I chose it: Recommended at PTA Live earlier this year.
Setting: Georgia, USA
My rating: 8.5 out of 10
I’ve recently decided that it’s perfectly acceptable for me to read YA titles, despite allegedly being responsible enough to hold a job and a credit card! What I’ve loved about the recent titles that I’ve read is that they are raw, emotional and by no means afraid to tackle the big topics. While Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda tackles being a gay teen very well, I felt it lacked a little of the punch and gut-wrenching emotion of other reads. It’s a lovely read, but it’s a little too safe and sweet for me. Everything is boxed up beautifully and happily ever after.
The story engaged me by having one of my book-crack features – emails! I love a good epistolary novel and while the emails are only part of the narrative, there is enough of them to keep me happy. Simon is a sweet kid, he’s gay and cool with that. He just hasn’t come out to his friends and family yet (quite wisely, he argues why should he?). He’s having an email relationship with the mysterious Blue from the high school Tumblr –they seem to be able to discuss things that Simon can’t with his other friends. Anyway, Simon is desperate to check his secret Gmail account at school and he forgets to log out. Unfortunately, he’s caught by Martin, a bully who blackmails Simon – get him with Simon’s friend Abby and he’ll keep the emails to and from Blue secret. Simon agrees – he’s such a nice kid that he can’t imagine getting Blue in trouble and that’s when Simon’s own trouble starts. Getting Martin and Abby together is difficult, especially when Abby likes Nick and Leah likes Nick. Add to that the upcoming school play and an outing on Christmas Day…it seems like Simon and Blue are doomed before they even meet.
The story is sweet and cute. For some strange reason, it reminded me of the movie Grease– it kind of has a small town feel and like Danny and Sandy, you know that Simon has friends however. (Yeah. That’s a really bad analogy. But the story has that feel-good aura, like the movie). It’s as much as celebration of high school friendship as it is the story of Simon’s coming out. It’s funny and awkward in places. I felt though it lacked some darkness. Simon is a pretty strong character, so why is he so easily pushed around by Martin? Given Blue is anonymous with a fake Gmail too, it really wouldn’t have made much of a difference IMHO. Maybe Simon’s problem is that he’s too easy-going. He’s also a bit of an over thinker. Martin was a bit of a lacklustre bully, more of a stupid teenage douche – why does he target Simon when his own brother is gay? Is it really to get Abby or to get back at his brother? I did like how Simon’s sexuality really wasn’t a big deal to his friends and family.
Perhaps now I’m the one overthinking this. The story is simple and charming. Why am I looking for demons? I guess it’s because after the extreme emotion I’ve read in The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly and Extraordinary Means I was expecting some of that to come through here. But no. It’s a lovely, everyday story which is what you need at times. Nothing jaw-droppingly shocking, no OMG moments. The writing is sound and the characters pretty well developed (except for my niggles above). It’s a plain block of chocolate, something you crave occasionally in between the caramel chilli bars.