Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens' Agenda, Becky Albertalli

Monday, October 08, 2018

Simon is 16, gay, and in the closet. Afraid of how his friends, classmates, and parents will react when
they find out he likes boys, he lives a double life, pretending to be straight by day, and emailing back and forth with the anonymous and very gay Blue by night. When he accidentally leaves his email open on a school computer, another student, Martin, sees his conversation with Blue. Martin uses this knowledge to blackmail Simon into arranging a date between Martin and Simon's friend Abby Martin's threats and Simon's own increasing difficulty keeping his truth from his friends leads to tension in his usually close knit friend group, and when his relationship with Blue goes from virtual to irl, Simon finds himself struggling to adapt to the changes in his life.

This book is the inspiration for the movie Love Simon that came out last spring, and while I haven't seen the movie yet, if it is half as charming as the book then I know I will love it. Simon is such a likable, relate-able character. He perfectly represents the situation so many of the queer youth I know find themselves in. Society itself has moved so far in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance it seems like everyone should be able to be out without fear, but the reality is much more complicated. There are still plenty of people out there who think being gay is a sin, and even people who claim to be accepting sometimes have trouble coming to terms with the issue when the person coming out is their own son, daughter, brother, or sister. Simon THINKS he knows that the people closest to him will be accepting, but taking that first step into the light makes a person incredibly vulnerable, and once that news it out there's no taking it back.

But Simon isn't a sympathetic character just because he is making this huge, scary change. It's because he reads like any normal (and by normal I mean weird) teenager. He can be selfish and self-absorbed, he can use people, he makes decisions out of fear of rejection and ridicule, and he makes poor choices about school and drinking and how to talk to his friends. But all of those things just make him more endearing, because he reads like a REAL PERSON. I mean, I can think of at least a half dozen teenagers I've known over the years who are basically Simon by another name. And not just gay teenagers, either. Some of the struggles Simon has are universal, though they make look different depending on your identity. How do I know my friends will stand by me? Who am I in relation to who my parents think I am? How can I tell if a person likes likes me? Anyone who's has been, or is currently, a teenager has gone through some form of Simon's journey.

Finally, and this is my favorite, the book is NOT TRAGIC! My wife and I joke that the gays always have to have some tragic end in every movie or TV show, whether that end is a job, a relationship, or their life. This book shows that life for LGBTQ+ folks doesn't have to be full of suffering and sorrow. Figuring out who you are and how to navigate romantic relationships are just part of growing up, and it's refreshing to read a story that treats that process as the normal part of life that it is, rather than focusing on how hard and sad and dangerous it is when the person is gay. Not that there aren't people who experience danger and sadness and anger in their coming out process, but focusing on that fact ALL THE TIME is just one more form of othering.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Penny for your thoughts...