Friday, October 26, 2018

Becky Albertalli - Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Comment: Those of you who have the patience to read my comments probably know I keep saying I don't like YA novels. This is true but I must say I often mean YA novels with a focal point of romance relationships (which I no longer have interest in reading about) but if it's an YA novel whose main subject isn't how a teenage girl can't decide on a potential boyfriend, I can still find it interesting to read. 
This story by Becky Albertalli is certainly focused on different aspects or maybe I just anticipated the potential of the romance part differently because the main character is gay. No matter how unfair this might sound, since I like gay novels, I was more eager to try this one anyway.

In this story the main character is Simon, he is gay but has not yet shared that with anyone, not even to his closest friends. His problems begin the day he apparently forgets to log off his email at school and another person reads it and tries to blackmail Simon. What this guy wants it simply the chance to be near Abby, one of Simon's best friends. 
From this on, we have quite a tale of self discovery, of Simon trying to be fair to those around him and his decision to come out to his family and friends and of course, how he can finally know who is the guy he has been emailing and who also seems to like Simon as much as he likes this guy. Can Simon ever have any sort of control on what is happening in his life?

The dramas of high school, meaning teenage years, have gone from my existence in quite a while already and, to be honest, I don't wish I could go back. To do things differently? Oh yes! But not to relive everything again. Basically, to read YA novels is just one way to go back to those times and imagine things again, and I can't say I like it. Plus, often there are love triangles and that is just annoying. 
To read YA novels now... it's sort of bittersweet but it can also be a good experience on the memory lane and regarding this book, it wasn't so bad. There are some themes which the author addressed quite well.

Simon is still trying to decide how to say to his family he is gay. In this modern aged novel, his issues aren't exactly the fear of rejection - I assume even teenagers in open minded families or with the notion their families might accept them still have one little doubt on "what if". Besides, the world hasn't always been positive about this, so... natural to wait until that is shared. It was good that this book presents a family that accepts their kids, that educated them to be respectful so Simon knows his family might take it well, he just doesn't know it with 100% certainty. I lied how Simon's feelings were always taken into consideration... but of course, we only have his POV, so everything else is a little secondary known and that isn't how I'd have preferred this story to be presented.

Also interesting is Simon's group of friends and the dynamics between everyone. How realistic this is, because everyone has a group of friends (even loners talked to someone) or deals more with a certain group/set of people and each interaction is different. It was quite nostalgic to read about how Simon is with everyone and think about my own group back then. 

Simon has a love interest. A boy he started emailing and who is also a student in his school. I kind of understood how Simon wanted to know who the boy was but at the same time he wanted to keep him a secret, wanted to have the idea of slowly getting to know this other person who shared so much with him. I do think the author did a good job portraying Simon's doubts and wishes and how they merged together somehow. I'm very glad this didn't turn into some melodramatic plot nor a silly disguise for him to just say he was in love.  The evolution of his thoughts and wishes was believable and I wanted to see how things would work out.

I wasn't very fond of the first POV but I get why it was chosen. I think some plot points weren't as interesting to follow and there seemed to be some lack of balance between what Simon said he wanted and his attitude: teenager much? Lol, butt he reality is that he did get on my nerves once or twice. 
For the most part this was an emotional journey and I liked how the focus was on that, but some situations weren't as engaging. And to prove how inattentive I can be, I only guessed who Simon's love interest was after one obvious clue...

All in all, a great effort, very good scenes and situations, not as often well achieved goals.
Grade: 8/10

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