“Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli

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This is officially the seventh book that I have read this year. Which also makes it the seventh book I’ve read this month. Not bad for a girl who can usually only manage one book per week.
I think I figured it out, though. I go back to uni (!!!) at the end of February. Which means less time to read. Or at least, less time to read the books that I want to read. I have a reading list for one of my subjects.

But you guys don’t want to hear about that. You guys want to hear about Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, so I will oblige you.

I think this is an important story. It’s a coming out story, focussing on Simon and “Blue” and how the two of them find their way to coming out to everyone around them, as well as to themselves in a way.
As a straight white female, I have never had to come out. I have never had to sit people down and explain to them which gender I find attractive. I have never had to experience what that is like, and I find this profoundly unfair. I agree wholeheartedly with the mysterious “Blue” when he says:

“Straight people should have to come out too. The more awkward it is, the better.”

No one should assume someone’s sexual orientation. Another quote that perfectly sums this up is this one from Simon, the eponymous narrator:

“Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it shouldn’t be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever. I’m just saying.”

Despite its subject matter, Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens is an easy read. The language is simple and reads like an everyday conversation. And it is hilarious. I was grinning into the pages more often that not. Sometimes for story reasons, sometimes for joke reasons.
Not only this, but Simon has a massive thing for Harry Potter. He dresses as a dementor for Halloween, for example.
Now, here’s a weird quirk thing that I have as a reader: I do not feel comfortable with modern day pop culture references. I’m fine with Elvis and Pink Floyd and Judy Garland and even Jurassic Park, but start talking about Sherlock or Doctor Who (from Eccleston onwards) and I start to feel weirdly uncomfortable. So when Simon started talking about Harry Potter and Drarry fiction, I felt a bit off. Maybe because of copyright laws? I don’t know.

Essentially, this is a book about high school relationships. Friends, family, frenemies, plain ol’ enemies, and crushes. Albertalli just completely nails it all. I felt like I was in high school again, even if Simon’s experience (obviously) differed from my own. Albertalli managed to create an incredibly realistic representation of the atmosphere of high school. It may have something to do with the fact that Albertalli is a clinical psychologist for adolescents. There is not one stereotypical teenager in this story. Even the major antagonist is hard to hate. This is an important element to YA. I mean, YA in general is getting a lot better at not stereotyping its characters, but it is still a massive element. I guess it’s a massive element in a lot of genres, but you get me.

I’ve pretty much touched on everything that you need to know about this book already: the plot, the language, and the characterisation. But I also want to talk about the title. The phrase “homosexual agenda” is a familiar one and the first thing that comes up when you type it into Google is its Wikipedia definition:

Homosexual agenda (or gay agenda) is a term introduced by some conservative Christians in the United States as a disparaging way to describe the advocacy of cultural acceptance and normalisation of non-heterosexual orientations and relationships.
So what Abertalli has done is to take that degrading and harmful phrase and turn it on its head. I love that. I think it is brilliant. I mean, I am one for wordplay, but this is something else. This is wordplay with a message, and it gives me literary fangirl tingles when I think about it. The “homo sapiens agenda” is even referenced in the book. I love this so much. Because equality in the matter of love is an issue close to my heart. A large percentage of my friends are part of the LGBTQ community and the issue of equality is ridiculous. It shouldn’t even be an issue. Love is love. Period. So books like this make me happy.
So if you are looking for a LGBTQ friendly book that’s an easy read and pretty hilarious, while also driving home an important message, this is the book for you.
★★★★

 

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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