13 April 2015

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I’ve been reading about SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA for months. It got all kinds of blurbs, shout outs, publicity - I lost track of how many contests I entered to win an ARC of it. I never did win an ARC, but I preordered it, and my preorder came in a day early, so I read the entire thing in one sitting the evening of Monday, April 6, starting at 8:00PM and finishing at about 11:00.

Yes, it was that good.

It's taken me a week to finish my post about it because it's taken me that long to sort out my thoughts. Obviously, the book was amazing: great characters, great story, great voice. But more than that, SIMON was a book that meant something, not only to the readers who will find it, but to me, personally, as well.

To be honest, even writing this blog post fills me with anxiety. But that’s why it’s so important to do it.

Also, there will be spoilers for the book, so be forewarned.

In so many ways, Simon Spier could have been me. Seriously: reading the scenes where he was in rehearsals for Oliver took me right back to my high school days: I was a total theatre geek, though I tended to shy away from performing on stage for the most part. My desire to be noticed was constantly at war with my own lack of self-confidence…not to mention the fact that I was so heavily medicated during high school I was not particularly capable of spontaneously emoting. And Simon’s friends could have been mine: funny, loyal, passionate people, who sometimes got into the worst fights with each other.

I wish I was as self-aware as Simon during high school. I didn’t realize I liked guys until college, after I cut down on my anti-depressants, so…yeah. And even if I had been known in high school I know there is no way I would have been brave enough to come out.

I didn’t come out to anyone until I was nearly thirty. And that was just to one person, and I was a little drunk at the time. It took me another year before I told anyone else.

So when Simon tells Abby he’s gay, coming out for the first time, I was right there with him. I knew exactly what it felt like. And then when he tried to tell Leah, and choked up, that was me, too: because telling one person should make telling the second person easier, but it doesn’t. When he thought about how Leah had known him for long and then she was going to have a different idea of who he was: that was me, too. Because knowing someone will accept you doesn’t mean you want to need acceptance. You are still the same person, but it will never feel like it.

When Simon told his parents, and he knew it was going to be fine but he was nervous anyway, that was me. Because I knew I was loved, knew my family was liberal enough to deal with that kind of thing, but I was hesitant. My sister had told me before how much she wanted a “gay best friend.” I just wanted to be me. I didn’t want to have to meet any of their expectations.

When Simon called out his father on making gay jokes, that was me. Because there are a thousand tiny things people say that they don’t mean, but that hurt, that make you afraid of rejection. When my mother would play a game where she’d guess if actors on TV were gay…when my father would lower his voice a little whenever he mentioned someone was gay…those things stayed with me.

When Simon told Martin what an asshole he was, how Simon was the one who had the right to decide who knows and how and when, well, that wasn’t me, because I’ve never had that argument with anyone. Thank god. But it was absolutely right. It was absolutely true. I told myself that plenty of times. I still do.

Incidentally, I was totally taken by how Simon found it hard to hate Martin, even when he was being blackmailed. He honestly almost started to like Martin, until Martin outed Simon. And I think it was good and honest that there was no quick or easy resolution of that. Even after Martin apologized a million times. Sometimes people do terrible things, commit unbelievable betrayals, and you don’t have to forgive them. But maybe a small part of you wants to, even when you can’t.

When Simon misread who Blue was…who hasn’t felt that vibe and been proven wrong? Who hasn’t been secretly hoping and daydreaming and then found that the truth was a million times better? I guessed who Blue was early on, and I was so happy when I turned out to be right—and even happier when Simon realized how magical it was. I was so happy when he got his happy ending.

I wish I could go back in time and give young me a copy of this book. I know I’m not the only one who wishes that. But that doesn’t mean SIMON is any less meaningful to me now. Seeing that things can turn out okay, even in a book, even for a geeky kid in Atlanta, reminds us that things can turn out okay for us, too.

Things might change. Things might get messy. Things that aren’t a big deal will feel like a big deal.

I still don’t talk about being gay very much. I am pretty sure not all my friends even realize I am. Not because I am afraid of telling them, but simply because I don’t feel like I should have to. I live in a liberal city in a conservative state where you can get fired for being out, so I’m not that out at work, either. But I don’t lie about it, except, perhaps, by omission.

But thanks to Simon, maybe I’m a little bit braver now.

And maybe that is what matters most.