January 18, 2016

Heart-eyes for a coming-of-age debut from Becky Albertalli

For this outstanding work, Albertalli received the 2016 Morris Award, the highest honor given to a debut novel published by a first-time author writing for teens. We contacted the Georgia-based author soon after her win.
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Becky Albertalli's debut novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, wonderfully captures the nuances of the teenage experience, from seeking identity to finding first love. It's full of endearing, fully formed characters and trendy pop-culture references, and it scores high for topical relevance. But most importantly, the story of 16-year-old Simon Spier rings so true. Simon has been corresponding with an anonymous gay classmate who calls himself Blue, but these covert conversations may be exposed after Simon forgets to log out of his personal Gmail at the school library. There's romance here, a mysterious identity, blackmail and Simon's own confrontation with coming out to friends and family, plus so much more.

What was the first thing that went through your head when you found out you had won the Morris?
I was completely shocked! I think my actual thoughts in that moment were just a bunch of heart-eye emoji. I found out the Saturday before the award ceremony via a call from the (beautiful, wonderful, world’s best) committee, and I burst into tears on the phone. I was—and am—so incredibly grateful.

Who was the one person you couldn’t wait to tell about the award?
Definitely my husband! He’s an engineer and totally removed from the writing committee, but when I was listed as a finalist, he read all about the Morris Award. He knew exactly how special it was to me. We managed not to tell our families, though we sent them the link for the award announcement live stream, and hinted that they should check it out.

Do you have a favorite past Morris winner?
I’m a huge fan of John Corey Whaley, both as an author and a person. He recently interviewed me, and I might have lost my cool just a little when his name appeared in my email inbox.

What’s the best part of writing books for a younger audience?
I love everything about writing YA. I’ve found teens to be so smart, honest, funny and passionate, and I learn so much from my readers daily.

What kind of reaction have you gotten from your readers about this book?
The reaction to Simon has blown me away! I hear from readers often, and it absolutely makes my day every time. A lot of my emails are from LGBTQIAP+ teens who feel connected to Simon. A few people have told me they came out to friends and family after reading the book (which is the greatest honor imaginable). I also get lots of Oreo recipes, fanart, fanfiction and exclamation points. It means the world to me.

What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m working on revisions for my second book, which is expected to release from HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray in 2017. It’s a loose companion book to Simon—same universe but different characters. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to Simon’s fast-approaching release dates in the Netherlands, Germany and a few other countries—and I’m excited for the American paperback edition to come out in June!

 

Author photo by Decisive Moment Events

Get the Book

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

By Becky Albertalli
Balzer + Bray
ISBN 9780062348678

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