Two books, same high rating of 4.5 stars. I can’t gather enough words to justify writing individual posts for each, so let’s combine them.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray (April 7, 2015)
Diversity: 4 (well-written, plentiful QUILTBAG and racial-ethnic rep but no disability rep)
C’mon, the hype has been MASSIVE for this since it came out a few years ago. It was enough to make me break my rule of not reading m/m books (they get such disproportionate coverage among QUILTBAG books that I would rather focus on f/f books and others). AND IT WAS WORTH IT.
Simon’s voice flows so well that I’m sure there’s a very jealous river out there somewhere wishing it could move so naturally. He’s hilarious, the people around him are as excellently characterized as he is, and the book is just really fucking good. Almost everyone else has read this book before me, so I don’t think there’s anything I can add to the conversation! Just know that all those positive reviews are correct.
It teases tropes out the wazoo and is more than happy to subvert them. From Simon’s initial dislike of popular girl Taylor, you’d think she wouldn’t turn out to be a good character, but you’d be wrong! After Simon gets outed, she goes mama-bear levels of fierce on two guys who decide to bully Simon. She’s also an excellent singer and may or may not be my favorite character. Well, she’d be tied with Abby for that title, at least.
My one sticking point was a quote early on in which Simon thinks lesbians and bi girls have an easier time being out compared to gay kids like him. Yeah, it’s him being a very wrong teenage boy and Albertalli has addressed it out of the book as being very wrong, but it’s still in the book and there are a lot of people who are still going to agree with that.
Also, mmmmm, Oreos. I’ve always been a fan of Oreos, but reading this made me need some more Oreos from the store. I love Birthday Cake Oreos because I’m a trash human being with defective taste buds. What else is new?
The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian
Simon & Schuster BFYR (April 26, 2016)
Diversity: 1 (Disability rep in Keeley’s dad, who has been largely housebound after an injury on the job)
Something you should know if you’ve been around for a bit: I’ll read damn near any book that has to do with a man-made or natural disaster. My previous experience with Vivian’s books didn’t exactly go well, though. Did that stop me? NO SIR, IT DID NOT. Pretty good thing too because I would have missed out on a stellar book had I not given her another chance.
Vivian absolutely nails the melancholic atmosphere of the book even though the book’s narrator Keeley is the class clown. The nostalgic present-self-looking-back balances out Keeley’s personality and keeps her antics from getting on the reader’s nerves.
Really, everything about this book is so vividly written that you can almost feel the book breathing underneath your fingers. Keeley’s community, being driven from Aberdeen by flooding and the planned construction of a new dam, seems so much closer than it is. The efforts Keeley’s dad and other townspeople undertake to try and keep their town could practically come out of a nonfiction book. (I’m pretty sure one of my professors in college told us about a book like that once.)
That perfectly nailed tone and atmosphere genuinely brought me to tears multiple times and made me want to reread it even though it would just mean repeating 432 pages of pain. I like to think I’m good at telling the difference between books that are emotionally manipulative on purpose and books that pull on your heartstrings naturally. The Last Boy and Girl in the World? Yeah, it’s definitely the latter.