Publisher: Viking, imprint of Penguin Random House
First Published: 2020
Eighteen-year-old Amir Azadi always knew coming out to his Muslim family would be messy – he just didn’t think it would end up in an airport interrogation room. But when faced with a failed relationship, bullies, and blackmail, running away to Rome is his only option. Right? Soon, late nights with new friends and dates in the Sistine Chapel start to feel like a second nature…until his old life comes knocking on his door. Now Amir has to to tell the truth to a US Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom. At turns uplifting and devasting, How It All Blew Up is Arvin Ahmadi’s post powerful novel yet, a celebration of how life’s most painful moments can live alongside the riotous, life-changing joys of discovering who you are.
18-year-old Iranian American Amir Azadi is photographed kissing Jackson, a football player that he has secretly been dating. After being blackmailed Amir skips his high school graduation and flees to Rome to avoid being outed as gay to his conservative Muslim parents.
In Rome Amir meets Jahan, a proudly openly gay Iranian-Dominican man, who introduces Amir to gay culture and community.
I did feel that the depiction of Italian culture was a little stereotypical. I would have liked to have seen more exploration of Amir’s Iranian-American culture.
The novel moves between a retrospective look at the events that lead up to his decision to flee to Rome and his time in Rome, and an airport interrogation room, where his family is being detained after an argument on the plane home.
The novel is written with Amir’s first person narration as Amir tells his coming out story to U.S. Customs officials. It is also interspersed with transcripts of each member of his family being interrogated by U.S. Customs officials. This is interesting as it provides three other perspectives, his sister and parents.
It’s been more than a year since Simon and Blue turned their anonymous online flirtation into an IRL relationship, and just a few months since Abby and Leah’s unforgettable night at senior prom.
Now the Creekwood crew are first years at different colleges, navigating friendship and romance the way their story began – by email.
Love, Creekwood is a novella that serves as an epilogue to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015), The Upside of Unrequited (2017), and Leah on the Offbeat (2018).
It follows Simon, Bram, Leah and Abby during their freshmen year of college.
The novella is epistolary and is told entirely in emails back and forth between the Creekwood gang, which also includes emails from Nick, Garrett and Taylor, but the focus is on the relationships of the core four.
Leah and Abby are college dorm roommates, but Simon and Bram are in a long distance relationship with Simon in Philadelphia and Bram in New York City.
The novella is only 111 pages, so it is a quick read. It is definitely one for fans of the Simonverse series, as it reveals key plot points from the earlier novels, such as the identity of Blue. While it was sweet and nostalgic revisiting these characters I felt that the story was lacking substance.
Albertalli is donating royalty profits from the book to American LGBTQ+ organisation The Trevor Project.
Love, Creekwood was released during Pride Month June 2020 alongside the Hulu series Love, Victor, which is a 10 episode spin-off series of the film adaptation Love, Simon.
Join him as he discovers the world, with tiny eyelashes. Travel from school to college, where he discovers his flock and comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen. At university, take a seat in the audience and watch him find his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo.
A bold story about discovering that only YOU get the privilege of choosing who you are. There is power in embracing your uniqueness. What’s your story?
Michael is a young biracial British man of Greek Cypriot and Jamaican descent. He feels like he is caught between many identities: black and white, masculine and feminine, straight and gay. He feels that he is not “Greek enough”, not “Black enough” or “queer enough.”
The novel begins with Michael aged six and we follow him on his journey from childhood through to university.
When Michael goes to university he joins the Drag Society and creates his drag persona The Black Flamingo. In finding his voice Michael becomes more confident and accepting in who he is.
The novel is told in verse, which makes it an easy ready. It also features beautiful black and white illustrations by Anshika Khullar.
Socially awkward Alex is used to disappointment, and this summer is looking to be his sorriest yet.
When he unexpectedly lands a job at Wonderland, a run-down amusement arcade, he starts making new friends. It looks like his bad luck is about to change.
But in Wonderland nothing is quite what it seems.
And in life and love, sometimes you have to make your own luck.
Awkwardly shy sixteen-year-old Alex’s only two friends Will and Alice, who are now dating, have abandoned him for the summer.
Kendra, Alex’s dad’s girlfriend (who he views as a wicked stepmother) bullies him into finding a job for the summer. After an accident at Wonderland, a run-down waterfront amusement park, Alex secures a summer job there. Wonderland owner Maggie gives Alex a job on the condition he doesn’t sue her over his accident.
Despite giving the appearance that she hates teenagers Maggie has a soft spot for Alex.
At Wonderland Alex’s co-workers are a weird bunch of teenage misfits. He is befriended by Efia and Ben. Alex develops a crush on Ben, unfortunately he has a girlfriend Bella, who to make matters worse in lovely and definitely hard to hate.
There is also another potential suitor in the form of Caleb aka Lemon Boy, a young hunky lemonade seller, who saves Alex from drowning after he falls off the pier dressed in a pink flamingo costume – another awkward Alex moment – there are plenty.
Wonderland is in financial trouble, so Alex, Efia and Ben set out to revamp and save the amusement park.
When mysterious and threatening notes begin to appear our Scooby-Doo gang set out to investigate. I worked out who was behind the notes and other threatening incidents before the reveal, but didn’t mind as the mystery is only a sub-plot in the story.
Series: Direct sequel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Country: United States of America
Publisher: Balzar & Bray
First Published: 2018
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually right on the beat – but real life is a little harder to manage. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends she’s bisexual, not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friendship group starts to fracture. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high, and its hard for Leah when the people she loves are fighting – especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended…
Becky Albertalli returns to the world of her acclaimed debut novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, in this warm and humorous story of first love and senior-year angst.
We were first introduced to Leah Burke in Becky Albertalli’s 2015 debut novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
In this novel Simon takes a back seat as his best friend Leah narrates her senior year. Leah is not necessarily the most likeable protagonist. She can be very abrasive and judgemental. I actually found it refreshing to have a voice that is vulnerable and flawed – she is still figuring things out.
Leah identifies as bisexual, but she is only out to her mom – has been since middle school.
The story follows Leah as she develops a crush on one of her friends, as well as dealing with the usual pressures of senior year – prom, preparing for college, graduation and saying farewell to your high school friends.
It is positive to see a young bisexual woman who is comfortable with her own body and diverse POC representation.
There have been some criticisms of the novel. One criticism is that there were no hints to Leah’s sexuality in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, as a result some readers have felt that the novel is more of a fan fiction of Albertalli’s earlier work. Some readers have also been critical Leah policed another character’s identity when she came out as ‘low key bi’, and did not apologise for this judgement.
Leah on the Offbeat is not as good as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and I don’t think it had a chance to live up to Simon vs. I think itwould have worked better as its own story with a new set of characters – that being said it was nice to see Simon and Bram again.
Live life is a bubble?
Or risk everything for live?
Maddy is allergic to the world.
She hasn’t left her house in seventeen years.
Olly is the boy next door.
He’s determined to find a way to reach her.
Everything, Everything is about the crazy risks we take for love.
The novel follows Madeline ‘Maddy’ Whittier, a biracial teenager (African-American and 3rd generation Japanese-American) who is being treated for rare disease called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SKID).
Maddy lives her life inside a sterile environment never leaving her house – hence why SKID is often referred to as ‘bubble disease’. Her only company is her doctor mother, her day nurse Carla, and the occasional tutor.
Shortly after her 18th birthday she watches from her window as the Bright family move in next door – mom, dad, son, and daughter. Maddy is drawn to the son: ‘tall, lean, and wearing all black: black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers and black knit cap that covers his hair completely’. He practices parkour, is mysterious, and her bedroom looks directly into his.
The boy-next-door Olly befriends Maddy and the two first begin communicating by mime from their bedroom windows and later online, and eventually with the help of Carla are able to meet in person – behind her mother’s back.
Maddy knows that her and Olly will never be able to have a normal relationship, and the novel explores this dilemma.
The book features numerous illustrations throughout by Nicola’s husband David (his debut novel Frankly in Love is due out September 2019).
In 2007 a film adaptation was released with Amandla Stenberg as Maddy and Nick Robinson as Olly.
One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
The novel is told from the perspective of two Illinois teenagers that share the same name – Will Grayson.
The odd numbered chapters are narrated by heterosexual Chicago high school teenager Will Grayson. He is the only male heterosexual-identifying member of his school’s Gay Straight Alliance. He is living in the shadow (literally) of his best friend Tiny Cooper, an ironic name considering his size and personality. Tiny is larger-than-life, flamboyant, openly gay and much to Will’s distain writing an autobiographical musical, which features a character loosely (obviously) based on Will.
The even number chapters are told from the perspective of Will Grayson, an angry and depressed closeted gay teenager from Naperville, Illinois. He is taking medication for his depression. The only light in his life is Issac, a boy he chats with online.
John Green wrote all the odd-numbered chapters (capitalised Will Grayson), while David Levithan wrote all the even-numbered chapters (lowercase will grayson). Green’s chapters are written with correct punctuation, while Levithan’s chapters use lowercase letters and the language is more vulgar. This is a simple way of clearly distinguishing the two characters.
While the characters stories start off separately they each become interwoven when the two Will Graysons meet in a porn store.
The novel was the first LGBT-themed novel on the New York Times children’s best seller list.
Author: Juno Dawson (originally published under James Dawson)
Series: Stand alone novel
Country: Great Britain
First Published: 2013
Ryan is looking forward to spending the summer with his old school friends at Katie’s luxurious Spanish villa. He hadn’t seen the gang since their friend, Janey, committed suicide a year ago.
He hopes this summer they’ll be able to put the past behind them and move on – until someone else arrives, claiming to have proof that Janey’s suicide was murder!
Ryan was hoping for sun, sea and sand.
Suddenly, he’s facing a long, hot summer of death, drama and deceit…
Cruel Summer is largely told from the point-of-view of gay aspiring actor Ryan Hayward, who with a flair for gossip and drama narrates the story as if it is an imaginary television show about his life. This allows for the novel to have flashbacks and quickly change viewpoints amongst the young cast of characters. The chapters are titled scene or flashback.
Ryan labels his friends as if they are characters in a teen television drama – The Good Girl (Katie), The Bad Girl (Alisha), The Jock (Alisha’s twin brother Greg), The Geek (Katie’s ex-boyfriend Ben), and The New Girl (Greg’s girlfriend Erin).
The group of former high school friends are meeting up again for the summer in Spain at Katie’s family’s remote, luxurious Mediterranean villa after their first year at university.
The main mystery of the novel is when Roxanne Dent – the ‘high-school Lolita, boyfriend stealer and best friend turned arch-nemesis of Alisha’ turns up unexpectedly and announces that she has proof that Janey Bradshaw’s suicide the year before was murder – one of them is a murderer.
There are plenty of twists in turns in this tongue-a-cheek teenage soap opera style whodunnit.
Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her that they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching the airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions…like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl.
As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can’t share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don’t even realize she’s there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers’ lives – and her own – for the better.
In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society’s definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything – and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.
After Astrid Jones’s grandmother passes away she is buried in the small Pennsylvania town of Unity Valley, where she grew up. Following her grandmother’s funeral Astrid’s parents purchase her grandmother’s family home.
So at 10-years-old Astrid and her nine year-old sister Ellis and their parents pack up and leave New York City for Unity Valley.
When the novel opens Astrid is a seventeen-year-old high school senior. She does not have the best relationship with her parents. Her family is rather dysfunctional. Her father is getting stoned in the garage and her mother is taking her underage sister out for mother-daughter nights that involve drinking. Astrid’s mother is also very critical and judgemental when it comes to Astrid.
The town of Unity Valley is presented as being a small-minded and conservative town that is fueled by rumour and gossip.
Astrid’s best friends are Kristina and Justin, who are the high school’s power couple; most likely to be crowned Homecoming King and Queen. Except their relationship is a cover. Kristina is secretly dating Donna and Justin is dating Chad.
Astrid is also in a secret relationship. She is dating Dee, a co-worker at her part-time catering job. Despite knowing that her two friends are gay she is not ready to share her secret. She is also not comfortable with the label of gay. Astrid likes Dee but is reluctant to define herself as gay – yes she likes a girl but she cannot rule out dating a guy.
As Astrid feels she does not have the support of her family and friends she spends much of her spare time lying on the picnic table in her backyard. She looks up into the sky sending her love and thoughts to passengers flying aboard airplanes above.
The novel cleverly juxtaposes Astrid’s first-person narrative with short scenes about love and relationships from a passenger aboard the plane. These short scenes are stand-alone and in each scene we are introduced to a new character.
King also weaves philosophy throughout the narrative, such as the teachings of Plato, Socrates, and Zeno. Astrid even renames Socrates Frank and communicates with him (sort of an imaginary philosophical friend).
Ask the Passengers is a coming-of-age, coming-out story about love and discovering one’s self.
It has been 8 days since I saw Love, Simon, so today I thought I would do a book vs. film comparison.
A film adaptation can never be exactly the same. Often for timing and pacing reasons not everything can be included – it can be disappointing for book fans to learn that a favourite moment or character has been cut.
Also some elements that work on the page may not necessarily work onscreen. For example, much of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is written using the email correspondence between Simon and Blue. It was obviously a challenge for the scriptwriters to work out how to and how much of this to portray onscreen. Love, Simon has Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale), Cal (Miles Heizer) and Lyle (Joey Pollari) each take turns voicing Blue’s emails as Simon tries to work out Blue’s identity. This is a interesting technique to cover the mystery of who Blue is.
I believe that books and film adaptations should be viewed as separate entities. Although having said that, Love, Simon has captured the spirit and heart of the book. Albertalli herself has said she feels that the film is a ‘faithful adaptation’ of her work.
Below are some differences between the book and the film. This is by no means comprehensive (spoilers ahead…)
The first noticeable change is that the film has shorter title. Personally I think the title works for the film.
Simon’s email address
In the book Simon emails from email@example.com. In the film Simon uses the email firstname.lastname@example.org. Blue uses the email email@example.com in both the book and film.
Junior Year / Senior Year
The novel is set during Simon’s junior year, whereas the film is set during his senior year.
In the book Simon wears glasses and later wears contacts for the school musical. In film Simon wears glasses only in the flashback scenes. Robinson does not wear glasses in the present day scenes to minimise technical challenges that occur with lighting when actors wear glasses.
In the novel Simon has two sisters. A younger sister Nora and an older sister Alice, who is a freshman at Wesleyan University. She has a secret boyfriend Theo, whom she introduces to her family after Simon comes out.
In the film Simon only has one sister, Nora. In the book she is a high school freshman and is in a band with Leah, Taylor, and Anna called ‘Emoji’. Nora in the film is younger and has a passion for cooking.
In the book Leah has a crush on Nick and this causes much of the tension between Abby and Leah. In the film Leah’s crush is transferred to Simon. Personally I did not think this change was necessary.
In the novel Simon’s best male friend Nick Eisner is a white Jewish kid who plays soccer and guitar. In the film Nick is portrayed by Jorge Lendeborg Jr., who is Dominican-born. Nick still plays soccer but the guitar is gone.
In the book prior to the Homecoming Game the school has a Spirit Week where the students have various dress up days such as Gender Bender Day and Music Day. This is cut from the script so audiences miss out on seeing Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Nick) and Keiynan Lonsdale (Bram) dressed as cheerleaders.
In the film we only see the Homecoming Game, but there is added moment where Martin makes a grand gesture and steals the microphone during the national anthem and declares his love for Abby.
In the novel the school is putting on a musical production of Oliver. Martin plays Fagin and Abby plays the Artful Dodger. In the film the school is putting on Cabaret.
In the book Nick and Abby take Simon to a gay bar where Peter a college guy buys him drinks. A scene where Nick takes Simon to a gay bar was shot with Colton Haynes playing the college guy but was cut during editing for pacing reasons. Hopefully this will be included as a deleted scene when the DVD is released.
In the novel Nick’s soccer teammate Garrett throws a Halloween party. Garrett is still in the film but it is Bram who throws the party. In the novel Simon goes to the party dressed as a Dementor from the Harry Pottter series. In the film Simon and Leah goes as John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Simon still keeps his love for Harry Potter as he tells the audience about his crush on Daniel Radcliffe when he was younger.
In the film Simon sees Bram hooking up with a girl at the Halloween Party. This was done to throw the audience off the track of Bram being Blue.
In the book after Simon is outed Blue does not wish to meet him but does leave him a Elliot Smith t-shirt for him at school. Simon stops emailing Blue because he thinks Blue does not like him now that he knows who he is. It turns out Blue had left a note for Simon with his number hidden inside the t-shirt. Simon decides to email Blue and invite him to the carnival. When he goes to put on the t-shirt he finds the note. As the carnival is about to close Simon rides on Tilt-A-Whirl and Bram comes up and sits next to him and reveals that he is Blue.
In the film there is no Elliot Smith t-shirt and Simon has no way of contacting Blue as he has closed his email address. So he creates his own blog post and invites Blue to meet him at the Carnival. There is a brief bait and switch where Martin reveals himself as Blue to try and save Simon the embarrassment of being alone. Bram eventually turns up and reveals himself as Blue.
Added Movie Moments
There a few cool scenes added for the film, such as where Simon imagines his friends having to come out as straight and a fantasy college dance number to Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’
New characters in the film
Vice Principal Worth (Tony Hale) an awkward, cringey Vice Principal trying to be hip with his students is added for the film.
The film also introduces Ethan (Clark Moore), the only openly gay student at Simon’s school. This allowed for a great scene where these two boys are sitting next to each other. They are both gay but couldn’t be more different.
Another new character created for the film is Waffle House waiter Lyle (Joey Pollari), who is one of the potential suspects for Blue.
Love, Simon is out in cinemas now. Go see it!
If you have seen the film let me know in the comments what you thought. I would also be interested of any other differences between the book and film that you may have noticed.