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Literature / Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

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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.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is a 2015 Young Adult novel by 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.

Albertalli's second novel, The Upside of Unrequited (2017), takes place in the same continuity and includes references to several characters, as does her third novel Leah on the Offbeat (2018) which returns to Shady Creek with Simon's best friend Leah as the narrator and main protagonist. A further novella, Love, Creekwood, was released in 2020; this time, the story is told through a series of emails sent between several returning characters (Simon, Bram, Leah, Abby, Garrett, Nick, and Taylor) during their Freshman year of college.

A film adaptation titled Love, Simon was released on March 16, 2018 starring Nick Robinson (Jurassic World) as Simon, Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why) as Leah, Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) as Abby, and Keiynan Lonsdale (The Flash) as Bram. On June 17, 2020, the film continued as a Hulu original series titled Love, Victor, this time featuring a new title character, Victor (portrayed by Michael Cimino) at its center, though Robinson returned in a limited capacity and also narrates the series.

Tropes Present in Simon:

  • Accidental Proposal: Narrowly avoided in Love, Creekwood. Simon wants to do something special for Bram's birthday, and so lies to a fairground attendant that he plans to propose to his boyfriend, thinking the guy will be more likely to go along with his plan if he thinks it's for something more one-off and important than a birthday surprise. Luckily, Leah and Abby and the rest of the gang point out that this is likely to lead to a lot of confusion and potentially hurt on Bram's part if he and the attendant ever speak at all, and manage to talk Simon into smoothing things over beforehand.
  • All Gays Love Theatre: Downplayed. Simon is in the school play, but only as an extra.
  • Alliterative Name: Simon Spier.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: The Spiers, hands down, especially his father who makes Simon uncomfortable with a lot of his jokes.
  • Amicable Exes: Cal and Nora are broken up by the time Love, Creekwood takes place, but are adamant that they're still friends and that the rest of the group shouldn't "make it weird". In the same novella, Nick and Abby seem to have finally reached this point after their stormy break-up in Leah on the Offbeat. Leah and Garrett count too: the novella makes no mention of their brief stint dating each other, but they're clearly OK about hanging out with the rest of the group.
  • Beta Couple: Nick and Abby to Simon and Blue in Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
    • Simon and Bram are one to Leah and Abby in Leah on the Offbeat, which also adds Cal and Nora and Nick and Taylor into the mix over the course of the story.
    • Love, Creekwood gives equal prominence to Simon/Bram and Leah/Abby as the returning central couples, but sets up minor returning characters Garrett/Morgan and new characters Kellan/Grover as new beta couples.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The name of Simon's email persona, Jacques, is derived from the French saying "Jacques a dit", which is the French equivalent of the game "Simon says". It's how Blue figures out who Simon is offline.
  • Blackmail: Martin implicitly blackmails Simon with outing him unless he helps him get a date with Abby.
  • The Cameo: Molly and Cassie (the twin protagonists of Albertalli's second novel The Upside of Unrequited) are Abby's cousins and are briefly mentioned in both Leah on the Offbeat and Love, Creekwood.
    • Abby briefly appears a few times in The Upside of Unrequited via phone calls and texts with Molly, while Nick is mentioned frequently, and they both get an in-person appearance near the end at the twins' mothers' wedding. Simon gets a nod early on, and later makes a brief cameo texting Molly on Abby's phone when the latter falls asleep at his house. Ironically Leah — Abby's eventual long-term partner — is the only central Simon character not to get mentioned at all.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: In the two instances where Simon is given alcohol, he gets drunk very easily.
  • Cast Full of Gay: The series is notable for having pretty diverse LGBTQ+ rep — including gay, lesbian, bi, pan, and non-specifically queer characters who all get major roles — and while there haven't been any trans protagonists, a few minor characters are trans:
    • One of Molly's twenty-six historical crushes in The Upside of Unrequited is off-handedly mentioned to have been a trans guy.
    • Ava from Leah on the Off-Beat is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.
  • Closet Gay: Simon. He gets Forced Out of the Closet later in the book.
  • College Is "High School, Part 2": Downplayed in Love, Creekwood. On the one hand, the characters retain their dynamics from their high school days and still seem to rely primarily on their old friendship group for company and support. However, it's Justified in that they're Freshmen students who are still adjusting to college life, and they have mostly ended up going to universities in various locations around the country, keeping in touch by email as opposed to all somehow ending up at the same college.
  • Coming-Out Story: For Simon, and eventually for Blue.
    • The sequel is this for Leah and eventually Abby.
  • Disappeared Dad: Leah's dad left her family after having an affair.
  • Endearingly Dorky: Simon, by far. He's a huge fan of Harry Potter, incredibly awkward, and manages to catch the eye of a few guys over the course of the story because of it.
  • Everyone Has Standards/Hidden Depths: Simon is shocked when Taylor — who's basically The Friend Nobody Likes on the fringes of Simon's group, due to being quite self-absorbed and arrogant — immediately and publicly becomes the first person to jump to his defence when he's the victim of homophobic bullying, with no apparent motive other than being genuinely appalled at their classmates' behaviour.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Simon was too caught up in his own insecurities to put on the Elliott Smith shirt Blue got him for Christmas, so he almost missed the note taped inside that reaffirms his love for Simon.
    • In Love, Creekwood, Simon manages to miss the fact that his roommate Kellan is also openly into guys, and in a relationship with Grover, who Simon believes to be his "straight dude bro" best friend. He doesn't clue in until he sees them holding hands on Halloween, over six weeks into their not-at-all-hidden relationship and after spending most days with them in the meantime.
  • Forced Out of the Closet: Simon himself is outed halfway through the novel after Martin accuses him of taking too long to set up Martin and Abby (even though Abby has no interest in Martin and never did).
  • Foreshadowing: Blue says it's annoying that straight and white are considered the default. Blue is Bram, who is black; Simon kicks himself for assuming Blue was white when he finds out.
  • Gay Guy Seeks Popular Jock: While Simon isn't specifically seeking a jock, he doesn't mind staring at them. And in the end it turns out the Blue is a jock, as Bram is on the soccer team.
  • Hereditary Homosexuality: Lightly Parodied in Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, when Simon accuses his sister Alice of hiding a secret boyfriend at college (to detract attention away from himself being Forced Out of the Closet), only for Alice to half-jokingly ask how he's so sure she's not actually hiding a girlfriend. She's actually just worried about introducing her new boyfriend to her Amazingly Embarrassing Parents.
    • Played Straight in The Upside of Unrequited: Cassie is the daughter of same-sex parents and is a lesbian herself (though she uses the label "queer" she exclusively dates women). Averted with her twin sister Molly, who is straight.
  • If It's You, It's OK: In Leah on the Offbeat, Abby comes across this way when she describes herself as "a little bit bi" while trying to reconcile her feelings for Leah with the fact that she's usually interested in guys. Leah initially takes it amiss, feeling that Abby is both shying away from commitment and making it more difficult for women who actually describe themselves bisexual to be taken seriously. Fortunately, they work things out: Abby becomes more comfortable with her sexual identity, while Leah becomes less demanding of her to label herself.
  • Incompatible Orientation: While Simon never comes across this directly (he states he has a policy for not falling for straight guys), he and Blue do discuss the fact that being closeted in a school where there are no other openly gay guys mean hell for any attempt at dating.
    • A Downplayed example in Leah on the Offbeat reveals that Leah nurtured a crush on (a completely oblivious) Simon for a few years in their early teens, but that she'd gotten over it long before he came out as gay.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Leah is falling for Nick, who's falling for Abby, who is also falling for Nick, but is also being crushed on by Martin.
    • Leah on the Offbeat adds a couple more sides to the dodecahedron, including Leah and Abby's Unresolved Sexual Tension with each other and Taylor's crush on Nick.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Simon and Blue fall for each other online, but don't know each other in person, and Simon is stressed that Blue would no longer like him when he finds out who he really is.
  • Meaningful Name: Discussed. Simon means "the one who hears" and Spier means "the one who watches." According to Simon, this means he was basically destined to be nosy.
    • Simon uses the screen name "Jacques" to protect his anonymity, but it's also a clue to his real identity: "Jacques a Dit" being the French name for the game "Simon Says".
    • Blue's full screen name (Blue Green) also gives a big clue to his real identity: Bram Louis Greenfeld.
  • New Friend Envy: Simon notes that Leah appears to be resentful of Abby, both for being Nick's latest crush and Simon's new confidante. Becomes slightly more complicated in the sequel when it turns out that this is all quite true: Leah is especially hurt that Simon chose to come out to Abby before her, and is jealous of her relationship with Nick — but also Leah has a crush on Abby, not Nick as Simon believed.
    • Molly suffers from many varied shades of this trope in The Upside of Unrequited. First, her cousin/best friend Abby has moved to another state and has made a new best friend in Simon. Then her twin sister/other best friend Cassie starts dating Mina (her first serious girlfriend), and for the first time Molly isn't the main person in Cassie's life. She does her best to stay upbeat about it, but it obviously pains her — especially when coupled with the fact that she's the last person in her friend group to be single.
  • Official Couple: Lots, which is understandable in a romance-oriented teen drama series:
    • Nick and Abby become an item early on in Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and remain this way until they break up early on in Leah on the Offbeat.
    • Simon and Bram are an acknowledged couple throughout Leah on the Offbeat.
    • Leah and Abby are revealed to have made it to this status in the epilogue of the second book.
    • Leah on the Offbeat also adds secondary couples in the form of Cal and Nora midway through and Nick and Taylor in the epilogue. Downplayed since, by the time Love, Creekwood takes place, the former couple have broken up, and the latter's romantic status together is never referenced again one way or the other.
  • Out of Focus: Nick is initially introduced as the third friend in Simon and Leah's tight-knit group, which has recently been disrupted by the addition of Abby. However, he actually has much less prominence in the series than either Leah or Abby, becoming a bit of a Satellite Love Interest for Abby by the end of book one and ending up especially sidelined after they break up in book two.
  • Red Herring: One of Blue's hints about his real identity is that he shares his first name with a US president. Simon initially thinks that it's Cal (as in Coolidge) or possibly Martin (as in Van Buren). In reality it's Bram, which is a shortened version of Abraham.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Like all good will-they-won't-they romance stories, each book in the series ends with one for their title character:
    • Simon and Bram at the end of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
    • Leah and Abby at the end of Leah on the Offbeat.
  • The Reveal: When Simon finds who Blue is: Bram Greenfeld.
  • Romantic False Lead: Simon spends a good chunk of the book thinking stage manager Cal is Blue, but never makes a move because he isn't 100% sure and doesn't want to out himself.
    • Abby and Nick are this for each other. Downplayed in Nick's case since his later relationship with Taylor isn't portrayed as exactly "right" for him either, but very much Played Straight for Abby, who eventually gets elevated to Official Couple status with Leah.
    • Leah and Garrett are sort-of-dating for parts of Leah on the Offbeat, until Leah hooks up with Abby.
  • Settle for Sibling: Cal reveals himself as bisexual and asks out Simon towards the end of the first book. In Leah on the Offbeat, he starts dating Simon's sister Nora. Downplayed in that, while he definitely liked Simon, he wasn't super hung up on him and genuinely grew close to Nora in her own right.
  • Shrinking Violet: "Awkward Silence Bram," who Simon has never even heard speak unless he was forced to. We find out later that the reason Bram is so quiet around Simon is because he has a crush on him.
  • Trademark Favourite Food: Simon and Oreos.

  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The Upside of Unrequited was published in 2017, but takes place right after Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda in the summer of 2015.note  The legalization of same-sex marriage across the United States in June of that year is a major event in the book.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: The first book implies that Simon, Nick, and Leah had this dynamic for a long time. Subverted as it's already been disrupted by the arrival of Abby by the time the story actually starts.