My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I loved this book! It was such an adorable, easy read.
Simon is such a lovable character. Even when he is having a bad day, you just want to hug him, don’t you? There is so much I adore in this book, I don’t even know where to start.
Wait, yes I do, the parents.
As a parent, I find that a lot of books, especially in the YA realm are sparse on the parent front. Either they aren’t really solid characters, or they have an antagonistic relationship with the main characters, or, in the case of most dystopians, they don’t even exist. I don’t say this to criticize other books, because every character has its place. Even parents. And, let’s be real, teenagers drive parents crazy. Even the good ones. That said, I love Simon’s parents. They are cute, supportive parents who make mistakes and are just struggling to raise a teenager. Believe me, I get where they are coming from!
Simon and his friends made me laugh so much! They remind me of when I was in High School, and had a group of close-knit friends. When we would do things out of character, and everything felt so big, and new. When we would laugh and cry and fight. When going to class could offer amazing insights and unexpected delights. When sitting on the floor of a random party was considered a good night.
Albertalli makes this book so relatable, so warm and funny, that anyone can empathize with the struggles Simon goes through.
We make a lot of mistakes in High School. Hell, we make a lot of mistakes in life. How do we handle them? How do we learn to deal with them? That ends up defining who we are as adults. These kids make mistakes throughout this book. Simon makes many mistakes, and he also finds himself on the receiving end of other peoples mistakes. It is a good lesson that life often doesn’t cooperate when we have plans.
The one thing I really liked was how this book analyzes the topic of coming out. At one point, he asks, “don’t you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default?” And this is a really insightful question. Again, as a parent, there are things that you wonder as your child develops. Are they healthy, are they eating, are they growing. And as they enter adolescence, how will their sexuality emerge? Whether or not my child was gay or straight was never the issue for me, but I did ponder how to bring up the conversation. Because, whether we talked about girls or boys, learning how too set boundaries and be safe still needed to be discussed.
Boundaries are at the core of this book. When to set them, how to have them, what to do when someone pushes them. Simon has to make choices regarding his own boundaries when blackmailed. And other choices as life plays out.
Physical boundaries are often analyzed and discussed, but what about the more ambitious ones? I really think there is an important conversation about boundaries in this book. What someone can physically do to your body is definitely an important topic. It is equally important to discuss the non-physical boundaries as well. Bullying and violation through words is something that happens every day. While the subject matter in this book was kept on the lighter end of the spectrum, it still has the potential to hurt.
I also loved how Simon’s sense of self developed. He has to confront things about himself throughout the book. Who he is as a friend, a son, a brother, a boyfriend. Sometimes he finds that who he is and who he wants to be, don’t quite match up. So again, he has decisions to make. Can he become who he wants to be? And in doing so, he has to decide, really decide, who that is.
The struggle to find ourselves isn’t unique to adolescents. Or to boys. Or to homosexuals. We all go through that. It’s a lifelong process. Simon laments how his parents make a big deal over any small changes he goes through. “I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.” And yes! Welcome to life, Simon, welcome to life.
I would encourage parents to read this book. At worst, you will laugh and remember what it was like to be young. At best, you will have some subject matter to discuss with your own kids. No matter who you are, or why you decide to read this, I highly recommend it. Read for the laughs. Read for the life lessons. Just read!