By now you’ve likely heard of Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which is very deserving of its rave reviews. Like numerous other readers I easily fell in love with this book and with Simon.
Only one person knows that sixteen-year-old Simon is gay: the anonymous “Blue.” But when Simon forgets to log out of his email account at school, Martin reads his secret email correspondence with Blue and threatens to out him. Unless Simon can convince his new friend Abby to fall for Martin.
As Simon’s relationships with his friends, family, and Blue become compromised and more complicated, he has to make tough decisions about what to disclose and what to keep secret. Can he be honest about his sexuality without alienating his friends and family? Should he respect Blue’s desire to remain anonymous or insist that he reveal himself? Should they maintain a secret relationship or be openly romantic in the real world? What does it mean to be intimate in the virtual world but to never meet in person? Will he and Blue be attracted to one another in real life?
Albertalli masterfully explores such challenging issues. Her debut is well-written, engaging, intimate, funny, heartbreaking, unique, and important. It portrays Simon’s confusing and heartfelt coming out by taking a creative approach to storytelling that interweaves his first-person narrative and his email correspondence.
As I was reading Simon vs. I was reminded of another book I want to recommend that will be released in June: Leah Thomas’ Because You’ll Never Meet Me. While their stories are very different, Thomas’ debut is also about the close bond (bromance) that develops between two male teen pen pals who are strangers in the real world.
Ollie and Moritz are not automatic friends and their personalities are very different. While Ollie is willing from the start to befriend and open up to Moritz (his “Dear Fellow Hermit”), Moritz is rude and reluctant to talk about his life and become friends.
But Ollie doesn’t give up on Moritz, and eventually their letter writing evolves into an intense and unusual friendship. Ollie is deathly allergic to electricity, lives as a recluse, and feels abandoned by the girl he loves. Moritz requires a pacemaker, has no eyes, and is the victim of high school bullying. Yet, despite their struggles and the fact that they can never meet, this novel is humorous as well as heartbreaking, and ultimately about resilience and hope.
Alyssa Raymond is a YA blogger for Coven Book Club and its sister site Spellbinding Books. She thanks Edelweiss, the publishers, and the Boulder Book Store for providing her with digital review copies of these books for review purposes, and her opinions are her own. Please follow Spellbinding Books on Twitter and Tumblr. Thanks!