The months leading up to the release of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda were crazy busy for Becky Albertalli. Between her young children – “most of my non-writing time involves either Thomas the Train or my boobs” – and her deadline, the weeks flew by. Before she knew it, her April 7th release date was upon her.
“I can’t keep up with my social media right now. I feel incredibly lucky,” said Albertalli. “I’ve been so touched by some of the feedback I’ve received. It just seriously means the world to me that Simon’s story has resonated with such a diverse audience.”
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda follows Simon Spier, a junior in high school and not-so-openly gay, is forced to play wingman for class clown Martin when an email falls into the wrong hands. It also risks the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been flirtatiously emailing. Since its release, Albertalli’s social media accounts have been filled with “Simon, Spotted in the Wild!” pictures and loving buzz about the much-loved book.
Albertalli’s own Simon-in-the-wild story is “kind of a bummer.” Despite having her sister call ahead to their hometown Barnes & Noble to confirm that copies were indeed on shelves, Albertalli arrived to discover it was nowhere to be seen.
“I walked straight to the teen section with my phone camera out and my heart in my throat. It wasn’t there. And I was sort of a mess about it. But we ended up driving to a different Barnes and Noble, where it was on the shelf, visible as soon as you stepped off the escalator. I took the obligatory shelf selfies, and got permission to sign their stock. It was strange and thrilling and very, very cool.”
Albertalli knew Simon’s character before she had an idea for the plot.
“The story and characters are totally fictional, though there are moments I pulled from my own experiences. And while none of the characters are exactly based on real people, there are shades of many of my friends and family members in Simon and the supporting cast. This is where I make everyone I know paranoid,” said Albertalli. “But, honestly, Simon is more like me than anyone – he’s just a million times braver and a billion times more charming.”
While Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agends is “not the first lighthearted gay love story out there and [Albertalli is] so glad it won’t be the last,” it’s an important story that adds to the ongoing conversation of queer fiction in YA.
“I believe we need more people telling all kinds of queer stories in YA, and it’s important for them to be read by both queer and straight audiences. I do have such a soft spot for queer teen readers, and I think I want to reach them, especially. But I love finding out that Simon’s story has resonated with other (sometimes unexpected) audiences, too,” said Albertalli.
Albertalli is thrilled that there’s been such a big push for diversity in YA, something that she feels is very important – and something we definitely need.
“I truly believe it’s crucial for all kids to have the opportunity to see themselves in stories. LGBTQIA kids, in particular, often feel isolated, even from their own families. Books can’t fix a complicated family situation, but they do have the power to make you feel less alone. If Simon can do that for even one kid, then I’m satisfied.”