My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Simon and the other characters are the highlight of Simon vs the Homo sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, about a high school student on the verge of coming out as gay dealing with doubt, first love, and blackmail. He and his group of friends are the heart of the story and I particularly love Simon’s voice in this first-person narration. He’s funny and astute, but also heart-breaking at times: “And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.”
One of the craft techniques Albertalli uses to keep the story moving at a swift pace is to jump into each chapter in the middle of the action. The book rapidly moves through the months of Simon’s junior year. Some of the chapters jump into the middle of email exchanges between Simon and “Blue,” another closeted gay student at the same high school, after they discover each other on an anonymous online school gossip site. Their friendship and attraction grows even as Simon grows increasingly frustrated with Blue’s fears about revealing their real identities to each other.
I couldn’t always suspend my disbelief in the book, especially when truths are revealed and characters react. These moments often seemed too easy or strangely motivated, though I understand this is the complexity of coming out the book is trying to explore. I was emotionally engaged especially as the emotions ramp up in the second half of the book. Every coming out is different, and the book does a good job of describing the emotional complexity of coming out to friends and family even when they are accepting and loving.