Book review · contemporary · Young adult

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

19547856This went a lot better than I expected. I feel like I’m the last person on goodreads to read this, and yet the hype didn’t ruin it for me – I had read another book by Becky Albertalli and hated it, so I went into this with very low expectations.
I almost thought I would hate this one too, but I can say that even if you hated The Upside of Unrequited, you may end up liking this one.
On the other hand, I was spoiled for everything, so there’s that.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a coming out novel, and it’s a cute, happy one as far as coming out stories usually go, but I’m not exactly comfortable with recommending it as a fluffy and cute romance – yes, it has supportive parents and mostly supportive friends, but it still contains bullying and blackmailing, and the main character is outed. I thought all of this was handled well, but it was still hard to read.
(If you want a truly fluffy and low-conflict coming out novel, try Style by Chelsea M. Cameron.)

Why I liked this book when I really didn’t like Upside:
➡️ The main character is gay, not only the side characters, and the story centers his point of view on queer topics. (Upside is a book that talks a lot about marriage equality, from the PoV of a straight girl who makes everything about herself, and it was tiring to read)
➡️ The characters felt real. One of the things that people say about Becky Albertalli’s writing is that she writes teenagers in a way that is realistic. After reading Upside, I didn’t agree because those characters felt like caricatures to me, but that didn’t happen here. Some of the characters were annoying, but they always were realistically annoying, the way teenagers are sometimes
➡️ I read a translation. Now, I actually don’t recommend the translation at all – I’m going to explain that in a moment – but if there’s one good thing about mediocre translations, is that they turn every writing style into “unoffensive but dull”. I hated Albertalli’s writing in her second book, and here I didn’t have many problems with it. I have to say, though, that the Italian translation was bad – when the book said that a person “snuck into the chem lab and got his junk stuck in a beaker”, I don’t think it was talking about heroin? (Am I reading it wrong?) Also, “Bram’s gone too. how strange :)” was translated with “Manca anke Bram. Ke strano :)” and I can’t believe I had to read this with my own eyes. Why. Who thought that was necessary.
➡️ The sense of humor worked for me this time. As I said before, I don’t think this book is exactly as light as some say it is, but it has many funny moments.
❌ One thing that still didn’t work for me were the pop/American culture references. I get that they make the book feel more real to US readers, but both this book and Upside had far too many of them, and half of the time I had no idea what they were talking about. This never happens when I read books about characters of other cultures, because the author usually does not assume they’re the default. White Americans always do, and it’s annoying – especially in a book that tries to challenge straight and white as defaults.
(Yes, I get that this was written for an US audience, but US books are read around the world and most YA books we get in Italy are translated. The ones that aren’t are overwhelmingly straight and I can do without that.)

I don’t know if I want to read Leah on the Offbeat. On one hand, I thought I would hate this book and other readers convinced me to read it, and they were right; also Leah felt like a realistic – if annoying, sometimes – character. On the other hand, I haven’t heard the best things about that book and Leah reminded me of Molly in the way she made Simon’s coming out about herself (understandable! I still didn’t like that and I’m not sure I want her PoV).
Is it good?

My rating: ★★★★

One thought on “Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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