Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. – Goodreads
Calling this book adorable understates its quality: it’s cute and believable. Let’s do this without further adieu.
What I Didn’t Like
- The book’s length. I like short to medium-length books, and when I love the book and it’s short, I’m annoyed.
- Leah. I get the jealousy. But, she runs one-note and the clean-up does not clear it.
- Too Many Pop Culture References. Do not date your story. Do not make me cringe with each reference. It reeks of “Am I cool?”
- Martin. He’s deplorable. He’s rotten. He’s a tad psychopathic. He frightened me as his motives play into real fears felt throughout our lives. I thought Albertalli pulled a bait and switch, which would have been a better and complex plot point to see how sexuality, environment, and society hurts all involved.
What I Did Like
- Realistic and believable characters. Simon’s a typical teenager figuring himself in society’s scheme. He’s open-minded, naive at times, anxious, and he’s in love (though his love interest resides in emails until he reveals himself). His friends run the gamut of supportive, surprised, jealous, lovable, and confused. Basic yet complex teens circle Simon. His sisters differ from each other and neither of them are ditzy, makeup or boy-crazed, or trendy. His parents try to stay in the now and they goof. But, you understand that they aren’t cliche in their attempts at understanding their son and other children.
- Diversity. Simon’s gay. There’s a bi character (No spoilers!). Abby and Bram are Simon’s friends and they’re black (They don’t come off as cliched sassy black friends or comic relief). Female characters differ in personality, ability, and mindset.
- Setting. Suburban Atlanta appears realistically. Not as hip as its city center, Shady Grove illustrates less tolerant residents one would see in suburban and rural areas. While not heavy-handed, readers see how settings differ from each other without preaching. Having lived in Atlanta, I saw reality and not a writer’s imagination.
- Quick pacing. The story keeps you engaged; hence, my disappointment in its length. I wanted more.
- Blue’s reveal. I could not help but utter, “Aw!” throughout his reveal and their journey. Natural. Long-awaited. Cute.
- Written in a Teen’s Perspective. You read as a teen would talk, feel, and think. No Joss Whedon here. No winks at the readers. Albertalli shows her homework: she spent time with teens.
- The Email Mystery. Despite not being a mystery, those emails keep readers on edge. Reveal already! Let me see if I’m wrong.
Becky Albertalli’s debut knocks me to my feet. Readers should look forward to a great story with a nail-biting “mystery” and realistic characterization and plotting.
Verdict: 4/5 Elliott Smith T-shirts