When I can find extra moments, there is always a list of books I want to read. Some I anticipate for months, some for years before I find the time to get to them, and some of them live up to the hype and some don’t. Leisure Literature is a book review column that details my thoughts on my recent readings.
I heard multiple positive reviews about this new book over the past few months, and between how well-liked it seemed and the different type of themes it had, I figured I should put Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli on my queue.
For the author’s first book, it’s pretty awesome. Albertalli has a strong sense of voice and style, even if it isn’t particularly unique. And yes, this is definitely a pioneer book; there isn’t much YA out there, let alone general fiction that deals so closely and so mainly with LGBT characters. But other than being one of the first of its kind, this book was rather unordinary. There was little other than the normal high school drama spiced up with some risque borderline explicitness.
Quite unfortunately, every character but Simon rolled together into an indiscernible lump. It took forever to sort out who was who at Simon’s lunch table, his sisters were hard to tell apart at first, and nearly every girl was the same person (only towards the end of the book could I tell apart Taylor, Abby, and Leah). There also seemed to be quite a bit of trash littered around, not completely cleaned up. Theo, Alice’s boyfriend, served but one tiny purpose for a metaphor on how Alice needed to come out as straight, so many unnecessary people were introduced at theater who were never used, and extra names at the lunch table seemed to be nothing but extra names (and mystery solution possibilities).
There were also some unexplained niches that I wanted to know about–why Harry Potter was referenced so much (just an author’s obsession?), for example. Also, I think the author lost me in that I have personally never heard of the Homosexual Agenda, so I do not know what she references in the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Yet, it makes for a hooking title.
While I was still reading, I didn’t understand Martin–his motives were so simple they confused me. As I saw him repent, it didn’t seem anywhere near sincere enough; it didn’t seem like it would make up for anything, but you see him cry in some beautifully written imagery, continue living, completely defeated by his actions, and after the book was closed, I couldn’t help but feel so sorry for him. I guess it’s something strange I like to do, but I often like to envision books as plays or movies, and imagine playing each character. And undoubtedly, if Simon were a play, I would want to be Martin. I would like to pretend to be him, and see his grief from his point of view.
One problem I had with the whole thing with Blue was that Simon fell into every pitfall and trap of the internet and writing over the internet, and became far too blunt with his wishes and hopes to meet the real Blue. Additionally, it was very hard to connect the character of the writer of the emails with the IRL Blue. But I do say that through any number of legitimate and foamy devices, Albertalli is very convincing about the fact that Simon has fallen in love with Blue over email.
The worst thing about the end of the book is that there is no closure–we don’t find out what happens to Cal, or why in the world this strange band was formed as a plot point, or what Simon does in terms of Martin (I’m only left to assume Simon has no forgiveness left in his heart at all, something I disagree with). It almost is calling for a sequel itself, although it appears quite standalone.
Overall, Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda was a pretty good book, but wasn’t extraordinary. Eventually, its market will be saturated with other books like it, and the societal views about LGBT in this book will eventually become dated, but it will be known as one of the pioneers of its genre and theme. Read it anyway, for today.