Sweet Sixteener Jeff Zentner recently spoke with Fearless Fifteener Becky Albertalli about her debut YA contemporary novel, SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA (April 7, 2015 by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins).
Becky Albertalli is a clinical psychologist who has had the privilege of conducting therapy with dozens of smart, weird, irresistible teenagers. She also served for seven years as co-leader of a support group for gender nonconforming children in Washington, DC. These days, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons, and writes very nerdy contemporary young adult fiction.
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.
Jeff: SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA is a nearly perfect young adult novel. Combining humor and heft and filled with hilarious, witty, pitch-perfect dialogue, it’s not afraid to tackle weighty topics with grace and humanity. It even has a cool cover.
How did you conceive of Simon? How did this character come to you, and what was it like to have him romping around in your head?
Becky: Okay, so, remember when you were in elementary school, and you kind of understood how babies were made, but something didn’t quite add up? That’s sort of how I feel about Simon. There’s something very mysterious about how he came to me. I know there’s a lot of me in him, but he’s certainly not exactly like me. And I’m sure it’s not random that I chose to write a book about a gay teenage boy, after working with LGBTQIA+ kids and teens for almost a decade. But honestly? I don’t know. All of that stuff just came together somehow for me. Maybe the stork delivered him? I will say, he has been an absolute pleasure to share a brain with.