Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Becky Albertalli’s debut novel, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, gave me “all of the feels.” I had been mildly interested in reading this book (as I am mildly interested in reading most YA books, and actually most books!), but it was the August selection for Forever Young Adult Bookclub. I read this book in one night, one sitting. Just a few hours of my time for a delightful, emotional non-cliched story about Simon, a mysterious penpal, and Simon’s real-life non-internet friends.

What I really liked about this book was Albertalli’s pacing and her ability to switch between light and serious matter non-abruptly. This novel revolves so much around the ups and downs of friendships in your teens. And yes, the novel is about being true to yourself. But Simon doesn’t try to be anyone he’s not. The hurdle is telling his friends he is gay, but he doesn’t have to break any hearts to do so. And when he finds out who he’s truly been conversing with online, there is the best meet-cute ever, followed by Albertalli describing Simon and Blue’s relationship as I imagine she would write about a straight relationship. Nothing seemed forced or over-compensated for.

I would definitely read this book again.

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The Cursed Child

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS AFTER THE STARS

Every review starts the same. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is “just fanfiction.” Well I am here to tell you that your review is not original or insightful, because of course it’s fanfiction. We KNEW JKR wasn’t actually writing this. She, along with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, have their names on the cover of this book. JKR was the creative consultant, the figurehead. The play is Thorne and Tiffany’s work… and they are probably fans. If you want to call the play fanfiction, then go ahead. But please also call any VC Andrew’s or James Patterson books fanfiction as well. (I know the Harry Potter demographic is not the James Patterson demographic but as a bookseller I can tell you that people of all ages buy both Rowling’s childrens’ novels and Patterson’s adult ones, sometimes in the same transaction, for themselves).

So yes, it is technically, in the loosest sense of the word, fanfiction, and observing that does not a critic make.

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Another note that’s important to make is that this book is meant for people in their older 20s and 30s and not for the 10 year olds who have been “Reading Harry since I was four.” (Also no one has been reading Harry Potter since they were four and if their parents read it to them, they weren’t comprehending it). The Cursed Child (as well as the rest of the series!) deals with very adult, deep, dark themes. Harry is now a parent, who doesn’t have parents to look up to or ask for advice. He and his friends have suffered through tremendous loss and despair. When his son is going through similar despair, he has no way to process it as a father. Ginny has her parents and older siblings to look up to as parental role models, as do Ron and Hermione.

To compare, Malfoy himself is going through similar issues as Harry. He has a cruel father who was a pawn in Voldemort’s game. Malfoy struggles with being a Malfoy and being a good person. And does he have a good person in him? In the end, I think he does. But the possibilities provided by the time turner show he could have gone much darker than we thought.

What some saw as an “over the top” plot about going through time, I saw as a way to show our beloved characters in different incarnations. It was so amazing to see our girl Hermione as Minister for Magic, but it was also fantabulous to see her as a wanted rebel or a hardened Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. We got to see an alternate reality where Hermione and Ron did not end up together – and it was sad. I think as adults they’ve matured into their relationship and are truly meant to be together. People don’t have to seem compatible on the outside to fall in love and be very, very compatible.

At the start of my read, I thought Albus was ‘the cursed child.’ And in a sense, he is. He is cursed by family legacy. Cursed with being the black sheep of his family. Then I thought Scorpius. He is plagued by family legacy as well, and is the white sheep of the family. But once Delphi came into the picture, I think I am not alone in saying, she seemed off right away.

The flashback scenes gave me tears at every twist and turn (well, Harry’s dreams). Cedric, Hagrid, Snape, and more all showing up gave me more tears. And after all this time, I was always wrong about Snape.
The Cursed Child was a gift, and if that gift was fanfiction, well, I’m a fan. So give it all to me.