“The only people who have to think about their identity are the ones who don’t fit the mold.”

simon coverThe LGBTQ Book club met at Central on July 31 to discuss the young adult novel Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Everyone liked the warm coming-of-age story of Simon’s email flirtation with an unknown classmate, his forced outing, and the revelation of the surprise identity of his online crush. The novel is populated with Simon’s family and many, many friends, which are hard to keep track of but all have clearly drawn personalities. The book is lauded for its diverse cast of characters, but this seemed very subtle to us.  We were pleasantly surprised with the support Simon received from his family, friends and teachers, something that would have been unusual in a young adult novel ten years ago. While some of us who grew up in the area thought it rang true, a few of us thought that Simon’s classmates could have be crueler in real life and that Simon was free from any religious shaming.

Simon notices small, physical details about his friends such as the shape of their fingers. However, his primary relationship with Blue is conducted all online, with no physicality. Getting to know each other through email allows each boy to craft what they are saying, making their relationship less awkward and more intimate than it would have been face-to-face. This is mirrored the first time they are intimate, which is hilariously cringe-worthy.

The quotation “straight (and white, for that matter) is the default, and the only people who have to think about their identity are the ones who don’t fit that mold,”  resonated with us. One participant read an interview with the author who explained that the title was a play on the phrase “homosexual agenda.” While we didn’t think that would resonate with today’s teens (and none of us realized it while reading the book), it does position the coming out story as part of the human condition. This is a deeply human story and everyone must struggle with identity, ideally without wounding others along the way.

More Information:
About the author
Interview with the author
About the book
Other works
Movie adaptation

Recommendations:
Alex Stranglove (film)
Rise (TV series)

Next meeting:

Crossover Appeal: Fantasy Edition

You’re probably familiar with The Hunger Games and Harry Potter books but here are some other fantasy titles that may appeal to teens and adults alike.

22749788Young Adult Books with Adult Appeal:
YA Buckley – Undertow (first in a trilogy)
YA Cashore – Bitterblue
YA Durst – Vessel
YA LaFevers – Grave Mercy
YA Maas – A Court of Thorns and Roses
YA Schwab – The Archived (first in a series)
YA Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races

Adult Books with Teen Appeal:
F Barker – The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic
F Barry – Lexicon
F Extence – The Universe Versus Alex Woods
F Fagan – The Panopticon
F Miller – The Year of the Gadfly
F Sloan – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Book Store
SF Schwab – A Gathering of Shadows