Combining an upbeat and breezy tone with thoughtful reflections on contemporary social mores, Albertalli’s debut novel will appeal to readers looking for an older and more realistic version of Tim Federle’s Better Nate than Ever (Simon & Schuster, 2013).
High school junior Simon Spier is a modern sort of gay teenager: He has not come out but is entirely comfortable with himself, and has no fears of being ostracized. However, he is in an anonymous email relationship with another gay junior, Blue, who is more secretive about his sexuality. As Simon’s feelings for his unknown correspondent grow, he becomes increasingly frustrated about the concealment, particularly as his straight friends start to pair up. Meanwhile, another student tries to use his knowledge about Simon to gain an entrée into his social circle.
With the maturing Simon at the center surrounded by a richly developed family and group of friends, the novel’s adorable frothiness also allows for hard-edged and important questions: Why are straight and white the default? Why do you only have to come out if you’re gay? Even though Simon is not afraid of coming out in the way he might have been in an earlier era or with a different family, he still feels the enormity of “crossing the border”, knowing that once his secret is out there, there’s no coming back.
In a flurry of resolution at the end, Simon realizes how little he knows about even his close friends: as Blue says, people are “vast houses with tiny windows.” Only when Simon stops focusing on himself and asks them questions does he discover the secrets and layers of their lives.