simon-vs-homo-sapiens-agenda4.5 stars. A sweet story about teen issues, told in a voice that feels authentic, & that you can’t help but love. The story covers sexuality, identity, friendship, alcohol, bullying & family, but somehow this manages not to be an ‘issues’ book.

Simon is 16, in the closet & being blackmailed. Forgetting to log out of your email account on a school library computer is annoying and potentially embarrassing. When you’re conducting a secret email correspondence about your sexuality that a not-quite-friend decides to use as leverage to get his way it down right disastrous.

Simon might not be a perfect friend, brother or son, but I’d still love to have him by my side.

“White shouldn’t be the default any more than straight should be the default. There shouldn’t even be a default”

Simon grapples with his own prejudices and the assumptions he makes about his friends, the world around him, and struggles through many of the arguments around diversity and representation we are seeing in the YA publishing scene at the moment.

“Then he smiles and I smile. And then I blush and he lowers his eyes, and it’s like an entire pantomime of nervous gestures.”

Becky Albertalli seems to have a direct line to the teenage psyche. I was transported back to my awkward 15 year old self, trying to work up the courage to express how I felt to a boy who had captured my imagination. Some of the moments are cheek-achingly adorable and I just couldn’t stop myself from smiling happily at Simon’s crush-focused moments.

“People really are life houses with vast rooms and tiny windows. And maybe that’s a good thing, the way we never stop surprising each other.”

Simon’s relationships with his parents and his sister were a huge part of why I loved this book so much. His assertion that “If she thinks me drinking coffee is big news, it’s going to be quite a fucking morning” before he comes out to his family really put things into a relatable and domestic setting. So many parents seem to have the innate ability to turn every moment into something to be scrutinized, and though that is sometimes done in a positive and supportive way, the spotlight can easily make teens very uncomfortable. I think Albertalli does a brilliant job of portraying this family dynamic without exaggerating it to the point of forced comedy.

The inclusion of Simon’s struggle to deal with his dad’s inappropriate jokes was important: “Nothing is worse than the secret humiliation of being insulted by proxy”. There just aren’t enough parents in YA novels who are flawed humans, but genuine in their love for their kids, and Simon’s dad is such a great character to remedy this shortage.

“He talked about the ocean between people. And how the whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to” is just the kind of sentiment that would have enthralled me as a teen. I would have scrawled it in journals, made art with it as the central theme, and I would have repeated it over and over until it meant everything and nothing. I might not do the same now, but reading about a character who these ideas are new for, and who embraces them with the kind of zest I would have is so compelling.

And last but not least, this book is SO quotable! One of my favourite, insightful, quotes is:
“Being secure in your masculinity isn’t the same as being straight”

If you are trying to read more diverse books and are looking for something that focuses on teen sexuality and coming-out then Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is an excellent choice. If you are looking for a Young Adult Contemporary which will make you smile until your cheeks hurt then Simon is most definitely for you.

Suitable for teen and up – minor warning for some infrequent strong language.

 

** Giveaway Time **

To share my love of this novel I created an original watercolour artwork of the cover. If you would like to win it all you have to do is Let me know in the comments below what your favourite diverse read is any why I should read it. Also please leave your email address, instagram account name or other way I can contact you if you win.

Giveaway is open internationally and I will post the card from my next destination.

Entries close midnight 12th November Central European Time.

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Tamsien - Babbling Books
Reader, blogger, photographer with perpetually itchy feet. Host of Babbling Books' Readalongs and curator of a very eclectic Instagram account.

10 Comments

  1. My favourite diverse books are The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff . They were both so eye-opening .. You have probably read both 🙂 I joined bookstagram recently and I was immediately interested in reading as many Diverse books as possible! I can’t wait to get my hands on Simon Vs. The Homosapiens Agenda. @thebookcrux

    1. Thanks for sharing those Dhanushi, and welcome to Bookstagram! I studied (and loved) The Kite Runner in High School, but I haven’t read The Danish Girl, so I’ll have to add that on to my list! I hope you live Simon Vs, I thought it was such a wonderful story.

  2. A recent diverse books I read is probably one you’ve already got to! I’ll give you the sun by Jandy Nelson. My friend had been telling me to read it for ages and I saw it at the library decided to try it. Sibling relationships, suicide, depression, homosexuality, drug use, anxiety and grieving with the loss of a loved one are all looked at in this book, plus more issues I’ve probably missed. Nelson tells the story through 2 different narrators which usually doesn’t gel very well for me, but in her style and this book it worked really well.

    Another, though not massively diverse, just a really interesting read/concept is Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I’ve read this book so many times, I love that it’s a young adult that focuses on female friendships, not romantic relationships. Also, who doesn’twant to read about 2 badass female during ww2. One’s a pilot and one’s a spy!

    IG: @abcdemerli

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment Emily, you’re the winner! Just let me know via instagram DM your postal address and I will send the illustration out to you! I love how you have summed up I’ll Give You The Sun, it was one of my top reads of 2015, and I am really keen to read her other book, The Sky is Everywhere. I have also heard SO much about Code Name Verity, but somehow I haven’t got around to reading it yet! Must bump it up my list, because it sounds awesome.

      1. Found the comment, oops! Yayyy! Thank you again! The sky is everywhere is great! I actually posted my copy to the bookstagram friend who recommended I’ll give you the sun! And I am sending her a copy of code name verity for Christmas!

        I hope you make your way to it soon and enjoy it as much as I did!

  3. While technically not a book, “Check, Please” is a webcomic on Tumblr I found out about on National Coming Out Day.

    The illustrations are really good, but what’s better is the content of the storyline. It follows the story of a hockey player, Eric Battle, who loves to bake and is gay. This story is funny and interesting, interesting because while you may think of it seeming slightly clichéd- at the same time it isn’t!

    This poignant webcomic explores Bittle’s genuinely kind nature and his fears regarding his acceptance if his team mates “found out”. . . And there’s his crush on the team captain- Jack Zimmerman. .. Who may or may not be gay

    Check, Please will make you squeal, literally, and it will make you feel happy, worried, excited all at the same time.

    I loved how well the relationships between various characters were shown and how each of the characters are made out to be so unique!

    I highly recommend it! 🏳‍🌈

  4. Diverse reads gonna be Aristotle and Dante discovers the secrets of universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Beast by Brie Spangler, Carry on by Rainbow Rowell which is a standalone fantasy kind of based on HP and Drarry and Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.

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