When it comes to teen movies, there is no better place to go for inspiration than the printed page, particularly the popular genre of Young Adult.
From The Fault in Our Stars to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, even to divisive blockbusters such as The Twilight Saga, or smash hits such as The Hunger Games, YA novels have proven a wonderful ground to find the inspiration for the next teen movie classics and it’s no surprise that the recent Love, Simon has done the same thing.
Brought to the screen by Greg Berlanti, Love, Sìmon is an adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s wonderful Simon vs The Homo-Sapiens Agenda, and like a lot of YA novels filling our bookshelves today, it’s a wonderfully emotive tale that stirs your emotions, makes you laugh and breaks your heart just a bit too much, but leaves you coming back for more to see what will happen next.
Told mostly in the first person from the point of view of titular character Simon Spier, a wonderfully sympathetic protagonist who finds himself keeping his sexuality secret from his wonderful family and group of friends.
Albertali’s book brilliantly divides itself into chapters written from Simon’s perspective and his e-mail correspondences with Blue, a fellow student at his high school who is also keeping his sexuality secret from those around him, with chapters written in the form of e-mails between the two characters with an element of mystery over the identity of Blue.
It’s a superb set up for a book and Albertalli scarcely puts a foot wrong throughout, with its ability to mix humour, tears and teen angst being not only superbly delivered through Albertalli’s wonderful, personable prose, but a clear winner for something as wonderful as Greg Berlanti’s recent film adaptation.
One of the biggest selling points on the movie version of Albertalli’s book is how it has put a gay protagonist front and centre of a romantic comedy. It’s hard to believe that this is the case, but it is true, but a book like Simon vs The Homo-Sapiens Agenda has been part of a publishing industry, in particular one with novels geared towards young adult readers, that has been placing LGBTQ characters front and centre longer than its big screen equivalents, where predominantly heterosexual characters get their love stories on widescreen glory while LGBTQ characters are regulated to best friend or supporting character status.
Best of all, as great as Love, Simon is, Albertalli’s book is a brilliant piece of work on its own merits too and while it stands as a unified front with its adaptation, it also is very much a novel that stands as its own entity; there are several aspects that have understandably been changed, such is the nature of adapting a novel for the screen, but in bringing such a wonderful piece of work to our cinemas, the movie of Love, Simon has retained so much of its heart and dignity.
Albertali’s prose is full of warmth and humour, but most of all, heart. Simon Spier is one of the most wonderfully sympathetic and engaging lead characters to appear on the printed page, and Albertalli’s really makes you feel the pain, heartache, but also the high joys that he goes through.
He is such a superbly constructed character to spend time with that the book really makes you to root for him through every turn of the page. With a blackmail plot driving a portion of its narrative, there is a potential for the novel to get bogged down in dramatics, but it never falls into any obvious traps. It’s dramatic when it needs to be, but it never once gets heavy with its element of angst, only when it needs to.
Hopefully a new and larger audience will discover the book through the movie. It’s a wonderful addition to the increasing high quality of YA novels and with a wonderful adaptation in the world, hopefully it will help break down some barriers too.