MARCH: Epic Reads BookClub Recap: AGAINST THE DEFAULT – with Becky Albertalli
By Mónica González
A while ago I got my hands on Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. The breathtakingly quirky cover was the first thing that caught my eye. Lucky for me, our friends at The Bookmark hosted their monthly book club last week and turns out this month’s pick was exactly that title.
If there’s been one Epic Reads Book Club that has been packed with attendants, it was definitely this one! The night started off with a much needed, stress relieving oreo therapy, thanks to local bibliophiles Sue Quiñones and Jonathan Cotto. Most readers attending the event agreed with their love for the story and around half managed to guess who Blue’s real life persona really was.
— Becky Albertalli (@beckyalbertalli) March 31, 2016
One of the most discussed topics among readers was the appreciation for all the pop culture references such as Harry potter, Alvin and the Chipmunks and the Justin Bieber jokes. And speaking of said references, throughout the discussion, the author revealed that the novel she’s currently working on, which should be published sometime in 2017, will feature characters that are diehard Potterheads; and one Simon Spier will make a cameo to talk about the famous boy wizard himself.
During the Q&A part of the evening, one of the guests asked Albertalli if she ever considered to write chapters from Blue’s perspective. Albertalli stated that she never thought about it given that her feel of the book was always from Simon’s voice. “I never felt Blue’s spoken voice while writing, I always only got his email voice,” she added.
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the story about how a sixteen year old’s private emails get into the wrong hands, resulting in blackmail, stress and a forceful exit of the closet. Now, knowing that the author herself has a degree in psychology and has worked with teenagers for a long time, one would think that she might actually get her ideas from her experience as a therapist. Well, for Albertalli is the complete opposite. “I had access to a lot of beautiful and heartbreaking stories of queer kids and I had to be careful not to add those in the book because of my professional ethics,” Albertalli explained. “It worked as research, to avoid stereotyping the characters and to care and love that community; but knowing these stories made it all the more complicated, specially when thinking about future books,” she added.
Albertalli also stated that, given that her novel became a much bigger success than she expected it to be, she didn’t want to become an author that was strictly the voice of the gay young adult (YA) genre, which is why she opted for a much different character as the protagonist of her next book. “Straight, jewish, anxious, overweight girl,” those were the words that Albertalli used to describe the lead of her new novel as opposed to outgoing, gay, quirky and well adjusted Simon.
Even though the story isn’t autobiographical in itself, the author did say that there is a lot of herself within the story. She expressed that she identifies a lot with the teenagers in the novel, but when put into perspective, she also saw herself represented as the parents, them being some very openminded psychologists as well.
After Becky gave us a couple of book recommendations, including Tim Federle’s The Great American Whatever, we closed the night with a question regarding our favourite ten dollar founding father without a father and the musical that’s sweeping the nation; Hamilton: An American Musical. Turns out, her favourite song happens to be Dear Theodosia and she taught one of her kids to rap along with Cabinet Battle #1. If you do not about this musical, please correct yourself because you don’t know what you’re missing!
If you joined in on the fun, thank you for being there, if you didn’t, don’t fret, join us next month when we’ll discuss Amy Zhang’s novel, This is Where the World Ends and we’ll have a Q&A Skype session with the author, plus prizes and much more, only at The Bookmark!
— The Bookmark (@TheBookmarkPR) April 4, 2016
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