Teenage years are awkward for everyone, leaving us with memories of embarrassing moments as well as the good times. Between exams that decide our future and friendships that bloom and perish, peer pressure and raging hormones, who could ever say it is an easy ride? Now this is the story of Simon. He is your average teen apart from one tiny detail. He’s got a secret. One that he is not sure he is ready to share.
Originally published as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the book was turned into a film this year under the title Love, Simon, giving audience and readers some food for thought. “Straight people really should have to come out, and the more awkward it is, the better,” Simon says, in what I could easily describe as a coming of age novel about a gay guy who will grow on you, courtesy of writer Becky Albertalli.
When Simon reads a confession from a schoolmate with alias ‘Blue’ on the school’s Tumblr page, he decides to respond to the email address provided on the page. Soon the two are flirting with each other. In their online liaison, they find a safe place away from the hostile world around them. In a game of real-life Guess Who?, both boys find out things about each other (like Blue’s a Jew and his dad’s got a new family) whilst also making up pictures in their mind out of their imagination (Simon aka Jacques on email probably keeps a journal, Blue mistakenly thinks). As they fill in the details, they look forward to, yet are scared of getting to know who the other person really is.
Many times the theme of being gay is relegated to the back-burner in mainstream media, the very idea used as a sub-plot or limited to a prop character that helps the lead along. In Love, Simon, however, the whole agenda revolves around the fact that reality demands inclusion of all types of people.
Reality is a key word in Albertalli’s tale. She uses the internet’s influence and importance in teen life, an assortment of reactions to Simon’s coming out and things mundane like being grounded and misunderstandings to sidetrack her lead from his very important mission of finding out the identity of his crush. Even in tackling that all-important subject that friendship is, she scatters characters of different ‘types’ throughout the story, reminding us only too well of our own school years and the drama that surrounds them. She also covers the insecurities that come with new-found love through sweet thoughts along the lines of “And then I feel a little guilty… Because of Blue… It’s just that I also kind of feel like he’s my boyfriend.”
The reader unravels the story at the same time that Simon does, therefore being subjected to the first-hand confusion as well as all the excitement surrounding the mystery as to who could Blue possibly be. More than once, our brave hero tries to guess and more than once, the tale twists again. Will he find his soulmate at the end of it? Or will it all be hope in vain? This is one case where I was never sure whether he would eventually find his match.
The book captures the essence of love and crushes, but makes them transcend gender stereotype and the whole gay or straight agenda. ‘Love is always love’ is the message that comes across. After all, as Simon says, “There shouldn’t even be a default.”
Love, Simon was kindly provided by Agenda Book Shop.