When I was a child, I was told if I wanted to watch the film, I had to read the book first. And while I now see this as my mother’s literary pretentiousness, it’s something I now enjoy- and so, upon the release of Love, Simon, I bought myself a copy of Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda.
It’s a comfortable read, told from 17-year-old Simon’s slightly unreliable perspective. Albertalli has succeeded in making a realistically flawed main character who also succeeds in being likeable- Simon is both naïve and nosy, but neither of these things actually caused me to dislike the character.
It features a diverse range of supporting characters, which betrays just how much time and effort Albertalli put into researching the book. As a straight woman, she took some criticism for writing a book centred on the coming-out of a gay teenager. However, if the LGBT community declares these topics off-limits to straight authors, we can hardly complain about a lack of diversity. While it is true that we need more LGBT authors, there is no reason why a dedicated author like Albertalli cannot produce authentic stories.
Becky Albertalli spoke to a wide range of young LGBT people, and wove some of their experiences into Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda. As a result, the book was littered with moments and feelings that I recalled from my own late teens. Readers with varying orientations will find parts of themselves in the fine details of this story, which encapsulates the tumult of negotiating teenage friendships and crushes.
People who have seen the film should be aware that the book differs greatly, often in key ways. Most remarkable (without being a spoiler) is the difference in Martin’s character, as the book takes a lot longer to look at his motives, and as a result he ends up, while still not likeable, far more fleshed-out. I would definitely recommend the book to anyone who wanted to read more about Leah, especially as she is the protagonist of Albertalli’s sequel, Leah on the Offbeat.
Although the book was richly emotional, and I found myself crying at points, the overall tone was light, and an ideal read for anyone looking for an escape from the stress of the everyday.
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