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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 310

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a 2015 young adult novel by Becky Albertalli. It follows the protagonist, Simon, who strikes up an amorous email chain with a classmate who goes by the pseudonym "Blue." Simon's classmate Martin stumbles upon the emails and leverages Simon's fear of being outed...

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a 2015 young adult novel by Becky Albertalli. It follows the protagonist, Simon, who strikes up an amorous email chain with a classmate who goes by the pseudonym "Blue." Simon's classmate Martin stumbles upon the emails and leverages Simon's fear of being outed as gay to enlist his help in courting Abby Suso, Simon's friend whom Martin has a crush on.

Simon hides the imminent outing to Blue, and he ends up juggling several conflicting impulses. One is the need to accommodate Martin, who gets increasingly jealous of Simon's effortless closeness to Abby. Another is a love triangle that has formed between Abby and his friends Nick and Leah. Amid all of this, Simon tries to figure out the real identity of Blue. He uses clues from the emails to hypothesize that it is Cal, a member of the school musical. He also struggles with conflicting attractions to two jocks named Garrett and Bram.

Martin vindictively decides to post a public message to the school's online news board under Simon's name, coming out of the closet on his behalf. This forces Simon to come out to his family prematurely and endure bullying at school. When Blue distances himself from Simon, Simon lashes out at Martin, rejecting his apology.

Simon repeatedly tries to reconnect with Blue until Blue eventually sends him a t-shirt of his favorite band. After being grounded for getting drunk during an outing in the city, Simon offers to meet Blue at the carnival party after the musical. He is disappointed when Blue doesn't show up at their meeting spot, but he waits until the end of the carnival. Blue reveals at the last minute that he is Bram. At the end of the novel, Simon and Bram spend time together, and look forward to taking their relationship wherever it may go.

Summary

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Last Updated on January 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 907

Author: Becky Albertalli

First published: 2015

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Coming-of-age drama

Time of plot: Present day

Locale: Georgia

Principal characters

Simon, a high school junior who is gay but no one knows

Martin, his nemesis who blackmails him

Blue, his secret pen pal, with whom he falls in love online

Nora, his younger sister

Abby, his friend, whom Martin wants to date

Nick, his friend who has a crush on Abby

Leah, his friend who has a crush on Nick

The Story

In her fiction debut, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli, a clinical psychologist who worked for seven years with gender-nonconforming children in Washington, DC, explores the reluctant coming out of a gay teenage boy named Simon Spier. Simon is much like any other teenage boy: he has intense likes (he is a huge Harry Potter fan) and is often thoughtless, but he is also capable of considerable warmth and affection.

Shortly after using the library computer, from which he was e-mailing a fellow gay teen with the pseudonym "Blue," Simon is confronted by Martin Addison. Martin had used the computer immediately after Simon, realized he had not logged out of his e-mail account, took screenshots of the correspondence. Knowing that Simon has little interest in being outed, Martin threatens to tell everyone about Simon's sexual orientation unless Simon helps to set him up with Simon's friend, Abby. Martin wants Simon to put in a good word for him, as well as invite him whenever Simon and Abby hang out together. Complicating matters is the fact that Nick, another of Simon's friends, has a crush on Abby, while his friend Leah has a crush on Nick. Despite the complications, Simon reluctantly agrees to help Martin, fearing that he and Blue will be outed.

Although Simon believes in his heart that he has little reason to fear that he would be ostracized by his family and friends if he told them he was gay, he also is bothered by the fact that gay people are the only ones who have to come out and fear being stigmatized. As he seeks a way out of the situation he faces with Martin, his online relationship with Blue continues to develop. They continue to exchange e-mails, growing closer with each passing day. And despite knowing nothing about one another's identities apart from the fact that they are both students at the same school, they continue to share intimate details about their personal feelings, as well as their hopes and dreams. Before long it becomes clear from Simon's perspective that he's falling in love with Blue.

Despite the considerable tension Simon feels at the prospect of being outed, the book deals with the trials he faces with considerable humor and grace. And as readers speculate about Blue's true identity, they also come to be enamored with the interplay between Simon's family members and friends.

Eventually, Simon comes out to his friends and family, and he and Martin patch up their differences. As it turns out, Martin is not homophobic (his brother is gay), but he was just incredibly desperate to have some kind of relationship with Abby. Shortly thereafter, Simon decides he should take a chance on revealing his identity to Blue and suggests meeting at the carnival because he believes he has fallen complete in love with Blue. When they meet, it's revealed that Blue is actually Bram Greenfeld, an African American soccer player at the school. The novel ends with the two boys in a relationship and looking toward the future with hope and possibility.

Critical Evaluation

In addition to receiving numerous glowing reviews from publications such as Buzzfeed and the School Library Journal, Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda earned the William C. Morris Debut Award, which the American Library Association (ALA) awards to the best debut young-adult book of the year. The novel also earned a place on numerous best-of lists for 2015, including Booklist's top-ten first novels for youth, Publishers Weekly's best young-adult books, and the New York Public Library best books for teens, among others. It was also long-listed for the National Book Award for young people's literature and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.

Critics were impressed by the realism of the interactions between the main characters, particularly with the way Albertalli depicted the blossoming romance between Simon and Blue. They also found much to admire in the way Simon's coming out was handled, as well as the honest, sensitive, and heartfelt way in which homosexuality was dealt with in the novel.

Critics also admired the way Albertalli used a first-person, present-tense narration, from Simon's point of view, but alternated it with the e-mail exchanges between Simon and Blue to tell the story. Most agreed that that her narrative approach provided realism and considerable immediacy to the story, which could have otherwise been lacking. They also praised the way modern technology was used in the novel because it demonstrated the ways in which teenagers connect to other like-minded people online.

Further Reading

  • Albertalli, Becky. "Becky Albertalli, Heart-Eyes for a Coming-of-Age Debut." Interview by Cat Acree. BookPage, 18 Jan. 2016, bookpage.com/interviews/19341-becky-albertalli#.WMgxlRiZOgQ. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
  • Review of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli. Kirkus, 20 Jan. 2015, www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/becky-albertalli/simon-vs-the-homo-sapiens-agenda. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
  • Review of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli. Publishers Weekly, www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-234867-8. Accessed 15 Mar. 2017.
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