One of the brilliant YA book developments in recent years has been the rise of fiction reflecting a more diverse society. My school library is proud to have a wide range of titles offered that address LGBTQ+ themes. When I have a look to see what is coming up on recommended booklists in this area ‘Simon and the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ keeps popping up, so I thought it was about time I tried it.
Simon is 16 and gay. He knows this about himself, but along with all other 16-year olds around the globe, there’s a lot about his life that Simon doesn’t get. As we first meet him, no one else around him knows he is gay, except the mysterious Blue, who he only knows through messaging. He feels he can truly be himself with Blue, and they both wrestle with how to come out to friends & family. Their relationship is honest and very sweet, as well as giving some very funny moments. Simon accidentally uses a school computer and doesn’t log out properly, so a classmate sees his messages to Blue, and uses this to blackmail Simon into helping him meet a girl he fancies. This storyline comes from someone who knows teens very well indeed, as it’s just the sort of thing that happens on an all too regular basis in any school! Simon becomes determined to work out who Blue is, and meet him, but Blue is equally determined to remain a mystery. Simon is supported by a lovely family and 3 friends who are all drawn very differently in the book. Their characters are fully rounded, and I think this is an important aspect in making this such a good read. Nothing is 2-D- it all feels very realistic.
As the story continues, the emails with Blue become gradually more tender & intimate, with Simon certain that Blue is someone at his school. Odd clues are dropped, but still he is in the dark. They both agonise over coming out to their families, and eventually both achieve it but in quite different ways. I admire the author for not making this the ‘my family doesn’t understand me’ issue it might have been – I think this is often unusual in YA fiction. Much that I have read has focussed on misunderstandings and estrangement that is equally important as this will sadly reflect the experience of some young people. But the happy acceptance in this book will also reflect a realistic experience for many and it’s important that both are out there.
This book wraps up very nicely into a satisfying conclusion and I will be recommending it to all our students.