I’m really late to the party on this book, but hey! At least I got here, right? “Simon vs.” is a cute, contemporary self-discovery book that had me on the verge of tears on occasion. We get a close-up view of Simon who KNOWS he’s gay, but no one else does. When he finds a Tumblr post from his school from another gay boy, he responds, and a whirlwind email pen pal relationship ensues. But there’s one problem: these boys don’t actually know who each other are, and because neither is out to their friends and family, they decide to keep their identities secret. But part of the thrill is getting to know someone without fear of judgment, because they don’t really know you, right? But then these adorable boys catch a case of feels, and suddenly the excitement of anonymity begins to slip away… Except anonymity is only fun with Blue, Simon’s crush, but that secret is important for Simon to keep from the wider school. Now he just has to keep the guy blackmailing him from spilling the beans to everyone… This story was endearing, and fun, and quick, and each time I was CONVINCED I knew who Blue was, the author did the old switcher-roo, which kept this otherwise straight forward story exciting.
It’s a bit hard for me to enjoy contemporary YA novels anymore, just because I find they don’t age well. Or maybe I’m not aging well in comparison? Who knows? All that to say, it was a little hard for me to get into the style of Simon at first, but then you settle into it, and the dairy-esque format of Simon’s thoughts (he writes his emails how he thinks and talks, it’s adorable) hits its stride. It wasn’t long before I was flying through this book. It’s such an easy read too, and the way the author has you guessing and frantic to know who Blue is, is really well done. Which makes the pay off absolutely adorable. Blue is such a romantic, and Simon is so clueless, that it was really endearing to watch these two boys finally discover each other away from their emails. But for all the times that Simon is adorable, he also has some really powerful lines, especially about what it means for HIM to come out. I absolutely adored that scene, but I won’t say more than that to avoid any potential spoilers.
The only thing I didn’t really like about the book, was that Simon has these 3 best friends, but outside of Abby, the other two just feel… barely there. Which I thought was odd considering Leah gets her own book. I didn’t particularly love Leah in this book either… She often felt a bit petty and mean, but that could be simply because she didn’t get enough page time with Simon for me to get a firmer understanding of her as a person the way you do with Abby. There were also a few scenes where I just did not like how Simon’s friends treated him as secrets begin to unravel, but that could be by design because they are teenagers and teenagers generally kind of suck as a rule.
All in all, this was a super cute, fast, and adorably queer book. Everything has this touch of innocence to it that I, as someone who’s been reading manly adult fiction lately, has been missing. The author does a wonderful job of capturing Simon’s voice, and while some of Simon’s friends didn’t feel all that actualized, others in the story were so easy to see and to love (or hate) as the case may be. The mystery around Blue was really well kept and, like Simon, there are several times where you’ll think you’ve figured it out, just to be proven wrong which made this an adorable page turner with just enough gut punches to keep me on that feel roller coaster. Still, it took me a minute to get invested in the story, and I still feel odd about some of Simon’s friends, so I’m giving this book 4 stars, and am willing to be convinced about reading Leah’s sequel.
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