“It is definitely annoying that straight (and white, for that matter) is the default, and that the only people who have to think about their identity are the ones who don’t fit that mold. Straight people really should have to come out, and the more awkward it is, the better. Awkwardness should be a requirement.”
― Becky Albertalli,
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.
Last month I received the April Owlcrate box. The theme was “Head Over Heels.” In that box was Becky Albertalli’s new book, The Upside of Unrequited. This in combination with the praise I’d heard for Simon vs the Homo Sapien’s Agenda I took it as a sign. I knew it was time that I got around to reading the book I’d heard so much about. I was not disappointed.
I’ve been on a contemporary kick lately. I’ve been in the mood for quick and fun reads. With this book I got all of the fun and fluff that I wanted. But, I also got a deeper story as well. There was real social commentary and depth of character within this book.
One of the things that truly endeared me to this book was our main character Simon. I mean who doesn’t love Simon? He is the perfect balance in a character. He’s equal parts cynicism/sarcasm and optimism/hopeless romantic. I got all the snark I wanted combined with the cute fluffy points. Simon was a true to form teenage boy. He didn’t fit in any boxes yet wasn’t set up as someone who was “uniquely quirky.” That’s to say he isn’t a stereotype yet isn’t different just to be different. He has the feel of a real person.
On top of the adorable characters in this novel was the social commentary. This book told the story of a boy who is afraid to come out. He’s got supportive friends and family and his town seems to be relatively liberal. Yet, there is still the fear that he will be treated differently after he comes out. Many times in media we see stories of people who come out in very conservative towns and experience outrageous backlash. Those stories are important to hear. However, I think these stories are important too. It shows that no matter what the process of coming out is a difficult process. Nobody’s experiences should be belittled. In my opinion, however much that matters, Albertalli handled Simon’s story in a very impressive and believable way.