Friday, July 21, 2017
Audiobook Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Abertalli
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Abertalli. Unabridged audiobook on 6 compact discs, 6.75 hours. Read by Michael Crouch. Harperaudio, April, 2015. 9780062415097. (Review from audiobook borrowed from public library)
So this title has been languishing on my tbr list probably since it was announced as a Morris Award finalist. I am so-o behind in my YA reading! Anyway, I've grown to become quite the Michael Crouch fan and when I looked him up and saw that he had narrated this baby...click went the submit button on my ILL (Inter-Library Loan). I picked it up Monday, just before heading to the D.C. area for a Scholastic Reading Summit. I read (with my ears) most of a mg book on the way down; finished it whilst driving to the Manassas and Antietam Battlegrounds and read about 2/3s of Simon vs. ... on my drive from Gettysburg home. I was so wrapped up by this gem of a story that I popped it out of my car cd player and finished the last two discs in one sitting in my house because I did not want to wait for errands requiring use of my car.
Chapters with Simon's first-person narration alternate with strings of email between Simon and Blue, the anonymous boy he "met" by commenting on his post on their high school's Tumblr. Neither one is out, but they have an instant online rapport and Simon begins to look forward to Blue's next email. And it's that that gets him in trouble. He couldn't wait to read Blue's email, so he logs onto a computer in the library to read it. He forgets to log out, leaving the email for the next user to read. Turns out, it's Martin Addison and Martin wants something from Simon.
There's something about Simon that makes him instantaneously likable. I believe that were I reading with my eyes, I would've swallowed this book whole. Michael Crouch's performance tripled Simon's likability. Simon is laid back, bright and funny. He asks interesting questions like why do heterosexuals not need to "come out." He finds his parents affectionately annoying, misses his older sister, Alice, who is away at college and worries a bit about his self-possessed younger sister, Nora. He's got two best friends in Lia and Nick and the three have enfolded new-girl, Abbey into their midst. It's Abbey that Martin has set his sights on and he blackmails Simon into helping him get close to her.
I've mentioned before that Crouch is my new favorite voice. When I looked up his work, I was so surprised to find that he is, in fact, not new to me! I thought that I first came to his work in Salt to the Sea, where he voiced the POV of the despicable German Navy Seaman, Alfred. Turns out, he also narrated Richard Peck's The Best Man and Loot by Jude Watson and Lily and Duncan by Donna Gephart. He also narrated The Haters by Jesse Andrews. I enjoyed each and every one of these and look forward to hearing more of his work. Crouch has great female voices as well. I find that female voices show weaknesses in most male narrators who tend to create either annoyingly breathy voices or caricatures.
There is so much to love in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in addition to Simon. The writing is fluid. The dialogue is smart. The characters are unique and memorable. While the title is a tad mature for middle school - there's some refreshingly frank talk about sex and sexuality - keep the title in mind for that savvy, mature eighth grader. I get one or two each year who would be able to handle it.