Realistic fiction with real-life high school drama thrown in is always popular in my library and I would assume around the U.S.
Both of the main characters in these two books get bullied, but the books, while basically cast in the same type of light, couldn’t be more different. One is all about pain and anguish while the other is about finding that first love in high school. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is not in my normal wheelhouse of books and I haven’t really read such an emotionally impacting book like All the Rage in a while. I didn’t know what to expect going into this, but overall they are both great books.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is a funny, innocent-ish, real-life drama about first love and having the courage to say, “This is me and I’m good with that!” Simon Spier is just your average “in the closet” gay teen in the south with a lot of friends and a secret Internet relationship with another student (Blue) at his school. Together he and Blue have been using secret identities to get to know each other. Their first love romance really brings the story to a place that everyone has been before. Neither of the boys is “out,” but when another guy at school, Martin, finds out about the emails, he uses the information to blackmail Simon into helping him get closer to Simon’s friend Abby. The mystery of who Blue truly is isn’t what kept me interested. It was the sweet innocence and beauty of the character that is Simon that kept me wanting to read more. I laughed out loud and I know I snorted a time or two reading this one.
All the Rage by Courtney Summers is an emotionally impacting book about a teen who has been raped, but nobody will believe her. Romy Grey had friends once, but after she accused the town golden boy, Kellan Turner, of raping her, everyone thinks she’s a liar. Although she is obsessed with perfect blood red fingernail polish and lipstick at all times, the kids at school torment her to the point where she doesn’t want her body. Her only escape is a diner she works in on the outskirts of town. When her ex-best friend Penny tries to talk to Romy about another girl warning her off of Kellan, Romy can’t take the trauma of remembering that night and ends up being found on the side of the road the next morning with no memory of what happened and the words “rape me” written on her stomach. But she isn’t the only girl missing. Penny is missing as well and while Romy is found, Penny is not. Throughout the search for Penny, everyone blames Romy for taking away searchers that could have been looking for Penny. While all this is happening, Romy is just trying to find the words to make people believe her, but nobody ever does. Now she has to find out what happened during her blackout and maybe find Penny. Once I got over the obsessive need she has to paint her nails and describe every detail of the process, I was interested in the story. Emotionally draining are the words I would use to describe this book.
I did have to force myself through All the Rage at several stages due to the repetition and the way it felt like I was reading a technical manual on nail polish, but overall it was a good read about a hard situation. It reminded me a lot of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, but Romy did speak out about it and nobody believed her. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda made me smile and laugh and get emotional to the point where I told coworkers they had to read it. I honestly fell in love with the character of Simon. And yes, I know he’s gay and fictional, but I haven’t fallen for a character that way since I was a teen myself.
WINNER: SIMON vs. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA BY BECKY ALBERTALLI
Reviewed by Hannah Sloan, Aurora Public Library