Originally published as ‘Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda’, I initially watched the film then bought the book. This is probably the best decision I have ever made.
To be honest, I found the film unsatisfying. While it was good at capturing the friendships between the main characters, I feel like it carried certain stereotypes/insensitivities concerning sexuality and race. However, I bought the book anyway and have never been more surprised by the phrase ‘the book is always better than the movie’.
In adapting the book for film, I’ll admit some changes to the order of events were necessary, but the book shows exactly how much tension can be built from a good opening. It immediately captures the central and internal conflict Simon faces in the book. Typically, the book focuses much more on the character’s thoughts, which fits the plot far better. The ending, no spoilers, is also a lot more sensitive to the needs of the love-interest Blue, whereas the ferris wheel scene left a pretty bitter taste in my mouth as it could be seen as pressuring.
Subtly, I think this book was really good at presenting how same-sex attraction can automatically be turned into a question of gender identity, among other things. Simon shows a level of discomfort towards feminine expression, contradicting memories where he was more comfortable with it. Being bisexual myself, this fits with my experience too, where bias against same-sex attraction can lead to people being seen as ‘less of’ a man/woman.
Contrasting the film, the book also represents other sexualities and puts some light on how races are(n’t) represented in the LGBTQ+ community. Bisexuality is represented by name through a character Simon has feelings for and other students who are lesbians are mentioned. Then, as being straight is criticised for being the default image, so is being white. Racial biases are observed in the narrative, with a portion of self-criticism from Simon. But this was probably one of the worst aspects of the film. Instead of the narrative’s quiet awareness, Simon comes across in a clunky unaware manner (maybe intended to be humorous?) that made me cringe in the cinema.
Lastly, the writing. Beautiful. Albertalli makes distinct character voices for both Simon and Blue. Personally, Blue’s writing just made me love this book so much more, with its gentle but not overly flowery style, which was also reflected in his dialogue. The book also has a great amount of subtle foreshadowing. You know, the type where you go ‘Ohhh, yeah’ when it’s revealed at the end.
Just. Please. Read this book, it makes the reading list, for me it was worth it to the point I would buy it twice.