The Power of YA | Simon Spier and the rise of LGBT+ stories

simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda becky albertalliOne of the things I love most about reading, is how it can literally change someone’s life. Books have the power to change things, even if they’re minor things. They can. In this (hopefully) monthly series on my blog I am going to talk to you about the impact and the power YA books have. I’m going to include not just my own thoughts but also other people’s opinions and if I can find them, stats and figures.

This first post will be about Simon Spier (Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli), who has quickly become one of the most iconic LGBT+ YA characters and will probably only gain popularity once the movie (Love, Simon) is released over the world. I have sadly not been able to see Love, Simon yet because it’s not released where I live, but I have seen the impact it has had on many others.

This post does not include any spoilers about neither the book nor the movie it is simply a discussion of the effects Simon’s story has.

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Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is about Simon Spier, a closeted gay teen who has a crush on Blue, which is the pen name for a boy at school but he doesn’t know who he is. It is a story about coming out and the pressure to conform, about friendship, love and being gay in a hetero-normative society.

I think this story resonates with so many people who are LGBT+. It shows that they* are as much deserving of happy endings as anyone else is. It provides a start of a conversation that will hopefully last for a long time. It allows people to open up about their own experiences without the fear (or with less fear) of being judged. I have already heard so many stories of LGBT+ people for whom Simon’s story has made it easier to come out and come to terms with their sexuality.

*I’m saying they and not we because though I technically do belong to under the umbrella of LGBT+ or queer, I don’t think I should be included in this specific situation since I’m not alloromantic or allosexual and this book is not about my identities.
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For my visually impaired readers, I have posted all the text in the pictures here.

Simon and queer books

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda not only impacted people’s lives, it also gives rise to more LGBT+ stories being told. There are of course already books published but I don’t think that there have been stories about LGBT+ characters and LGBT+ issues that have been this popular and that really impacts publishing. Publishing now knows that stories like that of Simon sell and therefore it will hopefully become easier to publish other LGBT+ stories, and not only the “coming out” stories but all the stories: romance, adventure, sci-fi and so on. According to Malinda Lo, between 2003 and 2016 there has been a rise in LGBT+ stories and the number of LGBT+ books published by mainstream publishers has grown four-fold. There are no numbers from this source for 2017 and 2018 as of yet. However, the Cooperative Children Book Center has found that only 3.62% of all children’s and YA fiction published in 2017 had significant LGBT+ content (source). Of these books about half were about gay or lesbian characters. Though these numbers are low – much too low if you ask me – I believe those numbers are only going to grow more and more and a part of why is Simon Spier.

What we do notice when we look at Malinda Lo’s numbers is that the majority of these books that have been published are written from a cis male perspective followed not so very closely by cis female perspectives. CCBC did count the sexual orientations of the characters but it shows what is in my eyes a severe lack of representation of characters that are commonly placed under the “+”-part of LGBT+ (except for transgenders because weirdly there is even less representation for trans people than there is for non-binary people). Orientations such as pansexual, asexual and aromantic, are not or barely represented. All these numbers also do not show anything about intersectionality, or about the skin tone of the characters. What I really hope that starting with Simon, there will be more, many more LGBT+ stories that have intersections between mental health, skin-tone, privilege and sexual identities will be published, and that this book has revolutionized (or at least a little) the publication of queer stories.

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Simon and queer movies

You cannot deny the success of Love, Simon – the movie adaptation of Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. The movie is not only (one of) the first blockbuster movie(s) featuring a gay main character, it has also has made quite the impact on so many people. From gay teens finally seeing themselves represented, to the people around them who have gotten insight in what is to live as an LGBT+ teen in present society, the movie has touched many. As I have not yet been able to see the movie (can it be June already? Please?), I can only write this based on what I’ve heard from others who have.

There have been other movies featuring queer characters but none of them have had this same approach, or at least not to my knowledge. Love, Simon is not just a queer movie, it’s a teen movie about homosexuality. It has made its consumer base not only LGBT+ teens and adults but has made it accessible to anyone, which is one of the strengths I think it has. It has had advertisements and commercials on tv and the internet and all of that adds to the fact that it normalizes the topic of being LGBT+ and the struggles it comes with. I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to marketing and seeing ads or commercials with LGBT+ people makes me infinitely happy. Seeing the massive amount of marketing that has been done for a movie that is queer and happy, is amazing.

Love Simon
You can buy merch with this art (I made it, yay!) here and here.

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (or Love, Simon) is not perfect. There are some transmisic jokes, and the way Simon is outed is also a bit problematic. But in my eyes, it is comes pretty close to perfect. Nothing is perfect, of course, but Simon’s story is such an important story that will lead to many more. And I cannot wait for all those stories.

If you can, support Love, Simon by watching the movie in the cinema, buying the book, pre-ordering the upcoming sequel about Leah, Simon’s best friend (Leah on the Offbeat). Also support other queer stories, if you can. Some authors you might want to check out are Shaun David Hutchinson, Mackenzi Lee (The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue), Christina Lauren (Autoboyography) and Adam Silvera.

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Have you read Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda or watched the movie? Did it affect you or your life? What do you think is in the future of queer stories or what do you hope the future of LGBT+ stories will look like?

A special thanks to all the people who shared their stories with me and helped me with writing this post. You are amazing.

37 thoughts on “The Power of YA | Simon Spier and the rise of LGBT+ stories

  1. Awesome post… Though I’m not part of the community, I can definitely see how powerful the book and movie are for anyone who can relate to it… I totally adored both of them and have recommended to many of my friends too…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was such a wonderful post, Lia! I loved reading about how Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda affects peoples’ lives because it is such an important read. I went to see the movie a few weeks ago and completely re-fell in love with the story and I am just so happy to see all of this representation being acknowledged in the spotlight. Keep doing what you’re doing girl, this was such a gem to see in my feed. <33

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Taylor! That makes me really happy! My favourite thing about this story is how so many people relate to it and how it affects them 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post!
    I’ve been working on a similar topic for months (but always procrastinated so I never finished orz)
    I love this topic though. YA books really changed my life, and I really want to spread the YA love, but some people look down on YA so this kind of post helps, I think.
    Also, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda ❤ I love that book so much. I'm not part of the LGBT community but I think the message is powerful. Plus, I think the book is quite realistic, so I think people can easily relate to it.
    I haven't watch Love, Simon though. But it probably will be banned in my country. I think… 😦
    I mean, they banned Beauty and the Beast temporary because of the short gay scene so they might be stricter on movie focusing on LGBT 😥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I hope if you end up finishing the thing, that I can read it 🙂
      Yesss, YA is so underrated by people who do not read it but it’s such a powerful age range for books and it’s about so many amazing topics, it’s sad people only think of Twilight or the Hunger Games when they think of YA :/
      I hope you get to see it somehow, maybe online? That sounds horrible, I’m sorry 😦

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  4. i loved this post so much ❤ it made me so so happy reading all of the quotes, i'm smiling sitting in class right now. simon vs / love simon is so important and i'm so glad it's getting attention not only in the blogging world, but outside of it as well

    Also: i'm running the book blogger awards now through the end of the month so if you haven't cast nominations, check it out here: https://writethroughthenight.wordpress.com/2018/03/30/the-2nd-annual-book-blogger-awards-rules/ (i'm posting this on all my comments so sorry if you already have, i promise i don't self-promote usually haha)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel like its no secret what so ever that I absolutely ADORE Simon VS (I am actually already thinking about a re-read… the fifth time reading this book since July – in total) and while I’m not part of the LGBT+ community, there was still so much about Simon’s story and what he went through and felt that applied to me too. And I definitely think that’s quite a big aspect as to why this story is so, so successful: there is something that is going to apply to (probably) everyone reading the book. And even if it’s not specifically something about Simon that applies to you, there are other characters too – I’m actually finding myself relating to Leah quite a bit and hope to focus on LEAH related things during my next reread (hopefully before Leah On The Offbeat releases) to see if I missed out on other things about her that actually apply to me too.

    Unfortunately, I’m in the same boat as you and have to wait until June to finally watch the movie, but from what I’ve seen so far it seems to have such an important impact on so many people and I’m so happy for everyone who got to sit in a movie theater and see themselves portrayed on a big screen like that! Hopefully, film studios are going to realize that these kinds of stories are WANTED by moviegoers. And deliver more of them in the future!

    I’m already really looking forward to any other posts you’ll have coming up in this series, Lia! It’s a fantastic idea for sure!

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    1. Yess! This story is not just about being LGBT+ and it’s so relatable to people who aren’t on that spectrum too. I love that about it! I cannot wait for Leah’s book!! (I really need to check my pre-order because Amazon says they send it to me in May while the book releases in April??)
      I cannot wait for June and see the movie! I will drag everyone I know to that movie, because they have to see it!
      Thank you ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was thinking to write something related just today, when I saw a mutual that shared the long review/article that few times ago raised a long uproar and offense in the community. If you get what I’m talking about … I don’t feel like sharing the link because I find that article really problematic, even if as I got (I might be wrong) that is written by an lgbt+ person.
    It made me think how much, even if the article can have some points, is really not what young teens especially need now. It’s also really superficial, completely erasing the fact of how many people saw themself in the movie, partially or totally, how teens felt. It also skipped the deafult part, that is important and I don’t see how it could erase the daily struggle of the community.

    One happy story doesn’t negate more difficult sides. Like, what is bad that a movie is accesibile to anyone? As you say, is a movie for lgbt+ people. But straight people can see it too. That doesn’t mean that is for them. And also the fact that queer story should be a norm, not something that pop up sometimes.
    Sometimes I totally feel that people mix up integrating happy lgbt+ stories as some way to erase the opression or to give a pat on the head of straight people, creating something that they can also read and watch. But that’s not at all the point of it, rather is the request of lgbt+ people to see themself represented as people and not a just as a suffering stereotype for straight tears.

    Sorry if I ranted but I’m still really upset about seeing that article again, seeing someone I trusted sharing it without zero analysis or introspection. I hope that I expressed myself wihtout offending someone and in case I apologize. I’m still a bit out of phase. But I’m glad you wrote this post Lia. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know which article you mean (my brain might have deleted it because it sounds like trash but who knows). Thank you so much for your thoughts! I really hope that Love Simon will bring a positive change in the community and outside the community.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Re-reading the lenght of my comment versus the other… I really ranted XD
        Well, the article should be still around the web somewhere. It can has its point but… I said it already.

        I hope that this one will be just the first lgbt+ movie to get such publicity on the great screen

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Super great post Lia! I am totally looking forward to more content like this! I absolutely loved the book and movie even though they are both different in their own way. This movie is so important not to just LGBT+ community but also to everyone. It normalizes these stories and it’s so important for people to understand that. Different is still good and at the end of the day, we are all still human. I loved the book because I still related to other characters and Simon’s struggles even if I am not part of the LGBT+ community so there is something for everyone. I can’t wait for more people to watch it!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this post so much! I love every time I see someone praising this movie, and I love how celebrities are buying out theaters so people can see it for free. I hope we see so many more positive LGBT+ movies, big box office, in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Aaahh I love this post so much!! I think that it was such an amazing thing that a gay love story was taken on by such a big studio by Fox, and I hope we’ll get more and more queer representation in movies. I reread the book before seeing the movie and so many of what Simon went through I could connect to. And each time I saw the movie, I cried so hard to hear certain words said (WATCH OUT FOR THE MOM SCENE), and it was so validating. ❤ I truly love this book and movie and I hope you love the movie as much as I did!!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope so too! I just reread the book and fell in love with it all over again. I cannot wait to see the movie and cry about the mom scene haha
      Thank you <3<3

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post! As you say, Love Simon isn’t perfect and there are some very valid criticisms, but it makes me very happy to see a mainstream happy queer teen movie. And wow, I wouldn’t have expected there to be more non-binary characters than binary trans characters, I don’t think I’ve yet read any YA novel with a non-binary MC. (Although perhaps I’m reading older YA books rather than new releases.) I do hope that this will open doors for more queer teen stories to be represented in the media, particularly those of queer PoC! I hope you enjoy the movie 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was so surprised! I don’t know where their stats are coming from but I’d love to see what they listed! I’ve read a couple of books with non-binaries (you must read In The Hope of Memories by Olivia Rivers).
      I hope so too! Thank you!

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  11. Love this post. I loved the entire book and Simon will always be a part of me in many ways. I’m in awe of the impact this one novel has on the world – sure, the adaption has its role in that as well but it all started with the book after all. I cannot wait to see what impact Leah on the Offbeat will have. I already know I connect with Leah in a ridiculously perfect way so.. yup, definitely curious about that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! The impact is so amazing and wonderful. I cannot wait for Leah as well, I hope her story is going to be as impactful as Simon! I have no doubt I’m going to love it!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you! I know from experience that reading can take you to a new world, but I also want to find a world that was relatable to mine in books, but still have found so few. See, I’m struggling with my orientation and don’t know where to turn. I feel alone because I can so easily find books about straight romance, but not one about gay, lesbian, etc. romance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry, struggling with your orientation can be so confusing! I have struggled in the past a lot and it was nearly impossible to find any representation of my orientation when I was in desperate need for it (it still is hard) but now I also know how amazing it feels to see yourself represented in a book and relate to it. If you need any recommendations, just let me know!

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      1. I am going to be posting a big LGBT+ books recommendations post today so maybe that will help 🙂
        I don’t really know a lot of movies, because I barely ever watch movies but if you want tv series recommendations, I might be able to help you out 🙂

        Like

  13. Yes! I love this post! Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was such an amazing book and an even more incredible movie! I literally cry every time I watch the movie but in a good way. It’s so heartfelt and the scene with Simon and his mom after he comes out? So, so, so important and so well written!

    Liked by 1 person

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