This month’s book club pick is Becky Albertalli‘s 2015 novel Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. A film adaptation titled Love, Simon directed by Greg Berlanti opened in US cinemas March 16th. It opens in cinemas here in New Zealand March 29th but I saw an advance screening yesterday afternoon.

Nick Robinson (The Kings of SummerJurassic World, 5th Wave) portrays Simon Spier, an average 17-year-old Atlanta high school senior.

On the surface life is good for Simon. He lives in a nice suburban home. His high-school sweetheart parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) are still happily married. He has a good relationship with his little sister Nora (Talitha Bateman, who worked with Robinson on The 5th Wave), and has a good group of friends.

Simon has one secret – he is gay.

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Simon (Nick Robinson), Nora (Talitha Bateman), Emily (Jennifer Garner), Jack (Josh Duhamel)

When Simon learns that a fellow student, using the pseudonym Blue, has posted anonymously on a school blog that he is gay, he immediately begins exchanging anonymous emails with Blue.

The film has Nick’s soccer teammate Bram (The Legends of TomorrowThe Flash‘s Keiynan Lonsdale), theatre kid Cal (13 Reasons Why’s Miles Heizer) and Waffle House waiter Lyle (Joey Pollari) each take turns voicing Blue’s emails.  This is a interesting technique to cover the mystery of who Blue is.


Nick Robinson (Simon)

Simon’s secret is revealed when he leaves his Gmail account signed in on a school library computer and classmate Martin (Logan Miller) reads one of his emails. Martin uses the secret emails as leverage to blackmail Simon into helping him get a date with Simon’s friend Abby (X-Men Apocalypse‘s Alexandra Shipp).

He is scared that if Martin outs him he will lose Blue, so Simon starts lying and manipulating his friends to help Martin woo Abby. This includes convincing his best friends Leah (13 Reasons Why‘s Katherine Langford) and Nick (Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) to date when he learns Nick has a crush on Abby.

This sets up the dramatic tension and conflict for the film.


Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Leah (Katherine Langford), Abby (Alexandra Shipp), Simon (Nick Robinson)


Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), Abby (Alexandra Shipp), Leah (Katherine Langford), Simon (Nick Robinson), Garrrett (Drew Starkey, obscured), Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale)

As it is marketed as a romantic coming-of-age teen comedy there are plenty of laughs with the supporting characters. Natasha Rothwell (Saturday Night Live writer) is brilliant and hilarious as the scene-stealing teacher directing the school production of ‘Cabaret’, which Simon, Abby and Martin are in. Tony Hale (Arrested DevelopmentVeep) also provides plenty of comedy as the awkward, cringey Vice Principal trying to be hip with his students. There is also a very funny montage where his heterosexual friends have to come out as straight to their parents.

The film has an amazing soundtrack featuring music from the The Bleachers, Troye Sivan, Whitney Houston, Jackson 5.

Hopefully Love, Simon will pave the way for more LGBTQ+ representation in accessible, major studio-produced cinema.

Book Club Pick: March 2018


Book Details:

Title: Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Author: Becky Albertalli

Series: Sequel – Leah on the Offbeat (2018)

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins

First Published: 2015

Pages: 303

Publisher’s Description:

Simon Spier is sixteen and trying to work out who he is – and what what he is looking for.

But when one of his emails to the very distracting Blue falls into the wrong hands, things get all kinds of complicated.

Because, for Simon, falling for Blue is a big deal…



Sixteen-year-old Simon Spier is growing up in a town just out of Atlanta, Georgia. He has a secret – he is gay, but no one knows it, except Blue who he found through a post on Tumblr. Simon (using the pseudonym Jacques) has been exchanging emails with Blue. Simon does not even know who Blue is except that he goes to his school.

The novel opens with Simon being blackmailed by Martin Addison. Simon had left his Gmail account signed in and Martin has read one of his emails – his secret is out. Martin wants Simon’s help to get a date with his friend Abby.

A large part of the novel is the mystery of who Blue is. There are clues throughout that if the reader pays careful attention to will reveal Blue’s identity. I have to admit I had it down to two characters, but couldn’t decide.


Albertalli’s debut novel is told through Simon’s first person narrative and the emails between Simon and Blue.

A sequel, Leah on the Offbeat is due for release 24 April 2018.

A feature film adaptation Love, Simon directed by Greg Berlanti and starring Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel is due out later this month.





Becky Albertalli Official Website

Becky Albertalli on Facebook

Becky Albertalli on Twitter

Becky Albertalli on Instagram


Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: February 2018


Book Details:

Title: Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment

Author: James Patterson

Series: Maximum Ride series (Book #1)

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company – Hachette Book Group

First Published: 2005

Pages: 432 (hardback); 448 (paperback)

Publisher’s Description:

Her full name is Maximum Ride. And the girl can fly.

Max’s Missions:

  • Protect the rest of her gang – Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Angel – from a pack of half-wolf, half-humans with a taste for flying humans.
  • Rescue Angel from a crew of wack-job kidnappers.
  • Infiltrate a secret facility to track down her friends’ missing parents.
  • Get revenge on the one person she thought she could trust.
  • Discover the best chocolate chip cookie in New York City.
  • Save the whole world, for crying out loud.

Not necessarily in that order, of course.


The novel follows six children – Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gassman and Angel, who have escaped a facility known as ‘The School’. It is here that genetic experiments were performed on the children. They were injected with avian DNA (98% human; 2% bird), meaning that each child has wings and is able to fly.

The group is being hunted by the Erasers, a group of half human / wolf mutants from The School. When the youngest Angel (age 6) is captured the rest of the group must save her.

14 year-old Max is the leader of the group and novel is written from her point-of-view. The novel uses a third person perspective when the Max is not present.

The chapters are very short (2-5 pages) making it an easy read. The short chapters also give the narrative a fast-paced, action-packed feel.

While there is a lot action there is very little character development, and the ending leaves a lot of unanswered questions to be explored over the series.

A film adaptation was released in 2016.



James Patterson Official Website

James Patterson on Facebook

James Patterson on Twitter

James Patterson on Instagram


Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: January 2018


Book Details:

Title: American Street

Author: Ibi Zoboi

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Balzar + Bray, imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

First Published: 2017

Pages: 324

Publisher’s Description:

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie – a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream.

In her stunning debut, Pushcart-nominated author Ibi Zoboi draws on her own experiences as a young Haitian immigrant, infusing this lyrical exploration of America with magical realism and Vodou culture. Unflinching yet filled with joy, American Street is an evocative and powerful coming-of-age story.


The novel, which is narrated by sixteen-year-old Fabiola Toussaint opens with her arriving in New York with her mother. They are immigrating to the United States Fabiola’s birthplace from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Fabiola’s mother is detained by immigration at the airport and Fabiola has to travel onto Detroit by herself. There she meets her Aunt Jo and her three cousins Chantal (Chant), Primadonna (Donna) and Princess (Pri).

Later Fabiola learns that they plan to deport her mother back to Haiti. She meets Detective Shawna Stevens from the Grosse Pointe Park Police Department who offers to help release her mother into the States if she helps with a police investigation.

American Street follows Fabiola’s journey in Detroit as she adjusts to life in America with a new school, new friends, and a new romance.

Although the novel is set in present day it is based on Zoboi’s own experiences as a Haitian immigrant in Bushwich, Brooklyn in the 1980s.


Ibi Zoboi Official Website

Ibi Zoboi on Facebook

Ibi Zoboi on Twitter

Ibi Zoboi on Instagram


Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: December 2017


Book Details:

Title: What Light

Author: Jay Asher

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Razorbill, imprint of Penguin Random House

First Published: 2016

Pages: 251

Publisher’s Description:

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. It’s bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except for every year, they back up and move to California to set up there Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And always leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other. By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. But as disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra can’t help but wonder if love really is enough to overcome every obstacle…



Jay Asher’s holiday romance What Light is a light read (pun intended) for the festive season.

The novel is narrated by Oregon teenager Sierra, whose family own a Christmas tree farm. Every year since she was a baby her family have shifted south to a California town from Thanksgiving until after Christmas to sell their Christmas trees.

Sierra has to leave behind her Oregon friends Rachel and Elizabeth. But for one month of the year she gets to see her holiday friend Heather.

Business is struggling and Sierra has overheard her parents discussing this being their last season in California.


Sierra meets Caleb, a cute messy-haired boy with perfect dimples. Caleb has a dark past, which causes Sierra’s parents concern. They are also worried about Sierra being heartbroken when they have to return to Oregon.

Despite the rumours surrounding Caleb, Sierra is drawn to him and sees the good in him.

Similar to Asher’s successful Thirteen Reasons Why, the novel touches on how one moment can change a family and the effect that resulting rumours and gossip can have. What Light is a more optimistic story though.

Fans of Thirteen Reasons Why are best not to compare the two novels as they maybe disappointed as What Light is quite bland in comparison. Remember it is a light holiday romance.

It has all the elements of the holiday season – Thanksgiving, a Christmas Parade, Christmas Eve Mass, cookies, candy cane stirred hot chocolates, Christmas sweaters, gift giving, charity, and visits to Santa at the mall.

This is a light read to get one in the mood for Christmas.


Click here to read by review of Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson.

Let it snow



Jay Asher Official Blog

Jay Asher on Facebook

Jay Asher on Twitter

Jay Asher on Instagram


Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.

Book Club Pick: November 2017


Book Details:

Title: Turtles All the Way Down

Author: John Green

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Dutton Books, Penguin Random House

First Published: 2017

Pages: 286

Publisher’s Description:

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student and maybe even a good detective, while also living with the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.


Turtles All the Way Down is John Green’s first YA novel since his bestseller The Fault in our Stars in 2012.

The novel is narrated by sixteen-year-old Indianapolis teenager Aza Holmes. Aza suffers from anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). She is supported by her high school Maths teacher mother, her therapist Dr. Karen Singh, and her sci-fi obsessed best friend Daisy Ramirez (who writes Star Wars fan fiction).


As the novel opens the big news story in Aza’s town is the disappearance of Russell Pickett, a billionaire who went missing the night before police raided his home in connection with bribery and fraud charges. There is a $100,000 reward for information.

Daisy convinces Aza that they should investigate and get the reward. Aza knows Pickett’s eldest son Davis. In fifth and sixth grade the pair attended Camp Spero, a summer camp for grieving children. Aza had lost her father and Davis his mother.

Pickett was the absent father even when he was around. He planned to bequeath his estate to his pet Tuatara.


Tuatara – native to New Zealand (shout out to my home country!)

While the novel pays some attention to the mystery of Russell Pickett’s disappearance the focus is on Aza’s mental health issues. John Green himself suffers from OCD. The term obsessive compulsive disorder is never used; rather Green explores the condition describing it from Aza’s prospective.

Turtles All the Way Down is an intelligent, sometimes witty, sometimes depressing, and sometimes hopeful exploration of the mental health problems that many young people today sadly struggle with.


John Green Official Website

John Green on Facebook

John Green on Twitter

John Green on Instagram

Vlogbrothers YouTube Channel (with brother Hank Green)


Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.


Click here for my review of John’s Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

Click here for my review of John Green’s Paper Towns

Click here for my review of John Green’s Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances (with Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle)

Book Club Pick: October 2017


Title: The Fault in Our Stars

Author: John Green

Series: Stand alone novel

Country: United States of America

Publisher: Dutton Books, Penguin Group

First Published: 2012

Pages: 313

Publisher’s Description:

Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has brought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverant, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.


John Green’s latest novel Turtles All The Way Down is due out this month. So for this month’s book club pick I selected his previous published novel The Fault in Our Stars.



The narrator of The Fault in Our Stars is sixteen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster, who has lung cancer.

At her mother’s request Hazel attends a cancer support group for young adults in a local church. She only attends to please her mother. That is until she meets seventeen-year-old Augustus Waters, a cancer survivor whose osteosarcoma has caused him to lose his right leg.

Augustus is at the meeting to support his friend Isaac, who is mentally preparing himself for his upcoming surgery to have his remaining eye removed due to cancer.

Hazel and Augustus strike up bond. Hazel accompanies Augustus to his place to watch V for Vendetta (2005), so Hazel can see her doppelgänger Natalie Portman. They also exchange their favourite books. Augustus gives Hazel The Price of Dawn based on his favourite video game and Hazel gives him An Imperial Infliction.

An Imperial Infliction by Peter Van Houten is a novel that follows a teenage girl Anna who has a rare blood cancer. Augustus is frustrated that the novel ends mid sentence without a satisfactory conclusion. This ending suggests that Anna got too sick to finish or passed away before completing the story.

Hazel has written many letters to Van Houten via his publisher but she has never received a response. Van Houten has not published since and the left the States for the Netherlands.

Augustus contacts Van Houten’s assistant and she puts them in touch with Van Houten and they correspond by email. Van Houten explains he can only answer Hazel’s questions in person.

Augustus uses his wish from the The Genie Foundation and surprises Hazel with a trip to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive author. The trip unfortunately does not go to plan.

The novel is witty and as one would expect from a novel about cancer it is heartbreaking.

The title of the novel is inspired by a line from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, in which Cassius says to Brutus “The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (I, ii, 140-141). Similarly the title An Imperial Infliction comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson.

20th Century Fox optioned the rights to the novel upon its release and a film adaptation directed by Josh Boone, starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern and Willem Dafoe, was released in 2014.


John Green Official Website

John Green on Facebook

John Green on Twitter

John Green on Instagram

Vlogbrothers YouTube Channel (with brother Hank Green)


Source: I borrowed this book from my public library.


Click here for my review of John Green’s Paper Towns

Click here for my review of John Green’s Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances (with Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle)