Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – a Review

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

April 7, 2015 from Balzer & Bray

Paperback to be released June 7, 2016

Winner of the 2016 Morris Award

Purchase a copy here


An incredibly authentic and heartfelt debut.

Simon Spiers is a little bit of a mess. What is a boy to do when a complete stranger discovers the emails you wrote to your secret, anonymous, online boyfriend? Try to deal with the blackmail, and generally mess up your life – sounds like a great plan. SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA is an incredibly authentic and heartfelt debut novel that follows Simon through his junior year of high school. Romance, parties, angst, drama club, and many conversations in a Waffle House are in store for readers.

I loved Simon’s friends. He actually has far more than the four friends he claims, and they all absolutely adore Simon. Garret and Bram, the soccer dudes, while infrequently mentioned, are well-defined and interesting characters. Leah and Nick, the bffs since childhood, have surprising nuances and develop quite a lot over the course of the story. Abby is a powerhouse of a best friend, but even she isn’t infallible and makes some mistakes.

Simon’s family is fascinating. They’re nothing like the typical YA contemporary romance novel family. And this is a romance, make no mistake. Simon’s parents are just the right mix of strict and quirky. His sisters have their own lives, completely separate from Simon’s world, and we discover their secrets and watch them change at the same time Simon does. Even Simon’s golden retriever is an interesting character that adds to the overall aesthetic of his family’s world.

The romance between Simon and his email boyfriend, Blue, is heartache wrapped up with a shiny red bow. I just couldn’t get enough of their pining, angst-driven, honest feelings. Simon and all of his friends are incredibly authentic and real. The author simply nails Simon’s voice, like she were a teenage boy herself. Simon’s interactions with his friends brought back the best memories from my own high school experiences, and that was completely unexpected. While Simon and his friends, especially Leah, so fight sometimes, it’s totally natural and they work through it in the end. Albertalli is one badass debut author, who kicks ass at writing completely natural and authentic teenage characters.

However, I wanted more emails, in a more authentic style. I was disappointed with the emails between Simon (code-name: Jaques) and Blue. They were too short, without enough feeling, and there weren’t enough of them included in the story. Sure, there was a sense that the reader wasn’t privy to all of the emails Simon sent, but it sure felt like there wasn’t much more going on. I remember from being a teenager how emails I sent to friends (especially friends I had crushes on) would be long, rambling accounts of my internal struggles and feelings about pretty much everything and everyone. There just wasn’t enough obvious feeling in the writing of the emails, there wasn’t enough angst, and so they felt inauthentic. Regardless, the emails created an interesting format and added a lot of depth to the novel.

The verdict: Simon Spier’s junior year of high school is a fantastic and funny adventure reminiscent of Andrew Smith’s WINGER. Highly recommended for readers looking for a heartfelt slice-of-life romance.

Favorite Fiction of 2015

I somehow narrowed my list down to just 10 favorite YA Fiction of 2015! There is a large variety here – stand-alones, books in a series, an anthology, some short novels and some that are very long, some super popular and a few that flew under the radar this year. I hope this helps some people discover new books to read!

Book covers link to my public library’s catalog, because you should be getting books from the library!

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Favorite Manga of 2015

Welcome to the first blog post I’ve made in soooooo many months! And of course it’s about manga! Here are my Top 10 Manga from 2015, featured in no particular order.

If you’re a manga lover I highly recommend reading all of these series, and if you’re a librarian you should definitely have them all in your library! Akame ga Kill, Attack on Titan: No Regrets, and Citrus should probably be in the adult GN section, but everything else can go in YA!

My Little Monster, Vol. 1 by Robico    

Servamp Vol. 1 by Strike Tanaka    Citrus, Vol. 1 by Saburo Uta

Northern Kentucky YA Fest Recap

Gina

Over the weekend I got the chance to participate in the fabulous Northern Kentucky YA Fest. (Did you know that parts of northern Kentucky are considered suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio? There’s your fun State Line Fact of the Day.)

Everything about it was awesome. The teens were awesome. The authors were awesome. The volunteers were awesome. And the organizers were awesome, specifically Eden Grey, librarian extraordinaire, who was in charge of the whole damn thing and pulled it off like a pro. You never would have guessed that this was the first year they’ve ever done it!

Here are some photos. And let me just say: this all just goes to show that anyone can organize an event like this. Eden and her crew looked around, realized that there weren’t any YA festivals in their area, decided to organize one, and went ahead and did it. These events are such wonderful ways to…

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YA Anthologies – Violent Ends and Taking Aim

Violent Ends by Shaun David Hutchinson

Incredibly powerful storytelling with a consistent tone despite the 18 different authors. One of the best contemporary books I’ve ever read, and highly recommended. Each story is very well written, and while told from different perspectives, keeping the story straight is easy because of the quality storytelling and editing. The violent end happens in the beginning, and the rest is like a web of stories woven together in a masterful way.

Taking Aim: Power and Pain, Teens and Guns

Poor storytelling, too much message-sending, bland characters, unbelievable and predictable settings and situations, unreadable short stories that no teen will find appealing. Sorry, I did not enjoy this at all and I don’t think teens will either.

Release Day Review: THE SIX by Mark Alpert

The Six

The Six by Mark Alpert

Published July 1, 2015 by Sourcebooks Fire


A hardcore science fiction joyride.

What happens when you take six dying teens and upload their brains into the most technologically advanced robots ever created by man? You get a team of unruly superheroes who are the only hope for destroying a rogue Artificial Intelligence hell-bent on the destruction of all humanity.

Meet the Six, a group of teens given a second lease on life. Led by the violent ex-gang member Zia and computer prodigy Adam, who happens to be the son of the tech-genius who is leading the entire operation, the Six have less than a month to learn how to fight together using their new robot bodies. A rogue AI program, named Sigma, that was also created by Adam’s father, is trying to take over the world – and now only Adam and his team can stop it.

The best feature of THE SIX is that the author does not portray the scientists as the bad guys. In fact, advanced science and technology is on the side of the good guys – they need it to save the lives of millions of people. Among a wealth of dystopias and sci-fi novels in which the scientists and the government are the enemy, this standpoint is refreshing and exciting.

With accessible writing and a diverse cast of characters, THE SIX is a well done sci-fi action novel that will appeal perfectly to its intended audience. However, adult readers of YA, particularly women, will most likely find the series opener not quite to their tastes. There is the tiniest hint of romance, but once the teens are virtually ensconced in their new robot bodies, any hint of romance is crushed but the technological barriers between them.

The verdict: I highly recommend THE SIX, a well-researched, hardcore science fiction joyride for fans of first-person shooter video games like Halo and Destiny. Fans of YA sci-fi romance and dystopias may find it not quite suited to their tastes.

(Adapted from a review first published in School Library Journal, June 2015 issue)