Friday, April 27, 2018

Book Versus Movie: Love, Simon

So, what feels like a million years ago, I used to have a recurring series on this blog called "The Novel and The Movie," running through various book to movie adaptations, and determining between the two which I thought was superior (Spoiler alert: Between The Maltese Falcon, Bridget Jones' Diary, and Wild, the movie came out on top once!). 

Of course, these posts weren't the only times I've talked about movies on this blog - like in last summer's exploration of the Twilight legacy - but they were unique in that they pitted two different mediums of the same story against each other. When my siblings and I recently saw a movie that led us to consciously make those same kinds of judgments, well, I knew I had to bring the series back! 

(And yes, I'm very aware that this post jumps on board the hype train a little late, as the movie came out March 16th. I'm excusing it, because Albertalli's newest book, Leah on the Offbeat - which focuses on the character of Leah from Simon's story - just came out a few days ago!) 


If you do remember the Twilight post that I just mentioned, then these two might seem a little familiar!

While I read Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda all the way back in 2015, and have been telling everyone how much I love it ever since, neither my younger sister, Delaney, or youngest sibling and only brother, Beaumont, had ever got around to reading it. Naturally, I mandated that before anyone got to see the movie adaptation - Love, Simon, which premiered this past March to a Rotten Tomatoes score of 92% positive - they would have to do so.
  • Delaney is a college senior and soon-to-be graduate, with a passion for HR, and a legacy in Greek life, serving as both Chapter President and Panhellenic President. Despite having been a cheerleader for all four years of high school, and coming out as a lesbian to our parents in college, she has somehow never seen the the seminal LGBT film, But I'm a Cheerleader.
  • Beaumont is a high school sophomore, and member of the Knowledge Bowl, Jazz Club, and School Band, as well as Crew for the annual Spring musical. He loves watching Jeopardy with his family, and would like to make sure this profile mentions his beloved pet hedgehog, Beignet.
Delaney read the book quickly over Winter Break - after I gave it to her for Christmas - and Beau did it in the Spring, finishing up just a day before we saw the movie. 


Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli, follows the story of Simon Spier, a teenager who keeps his sexuality hidden from everyone... except for the stranger from his high school, Blue, that he's been messaging online. After he mistakenly leaves his email open in the library, and is subsequently blackmailed by geeky Martin into helping win over his friend Abby, Simon's junior year gets a lot more complicated. Can he juggle friends, family, the school musical, and this huge secret? More importantly, can he do so, while winning over Blue? 

For Delaney, this story meant a lot, due to her own high school experiences. "As a closeted teen I read most of my LGBT+ books secretly, either not mentioning the plot at all or shuffling the novel amongst the straightest YA fictions you could find," she told me. "In fact, Simon vs. The Homosapiens Agenda was the first LGBT+ book I’ve read since coming out. I can easily say I was not disappointed. The plot was juicy, well thought out, and came from a place where, while I knew the author herself was straight, I trusted her with the characters." 

Beau was a lot more new to the sub-genre, but still went in with high expectations. "While I've read books with LGBT+ characters before, they've never been contemporary or romance... if anything, almost all have been in the fantasy category. I read Simon vs. Homosapiens Agenda because it came highly recommended by both of my sisters, and I wanted to read it before seeing the movie. I really loved the characters, because they were very realistic, and it was funny, emotional, and very dramatic, and overall, a good, solid read." 

Notes from the Field (courtesy of my siblings)
  • Delaney hates it when teen-speak is incorporated into YA novels, especially when it comes to things like Internet slang or social media-specific lingo. Understandably, it was important to the plot - as the school's gossip Tumblr, creeksecrets, plays an important factor - but that doesn't stop the language itself from being somewhat cringe-inducing. 
  • In fact, Delaney couldn't help but flinch at some of the email conversations between each chapter from Blue and Simon, "not because they weren’t as valuable as the story itself, but because they reminded me too much of my own relationships and conversations in high school, and it honestly made me uncomfortable. " 
  • Beau just scoffed at the idea of lengthy chains of email responses back and forth. "There are plenty of other ways to message people." 
  • Beau thought some of the pop cultural references were well-integrated into the plot, but others were awkward, and even automatically dated the novel. "Some, like Harry Potter, will stand the test of time, but others that are really funny now, might not last as long." 


The movie follows the same plotline as the book, to a fairly impressive degree, in terms of a film expectations for an adaptation of a YA novel. They were especially successful is maintaining the sense of personality that Simon imbues throughout the story, as well as creating realistic characters portrayed with emotional depth. However, the changes that were made, were definitely noticed. 

Delaney said that overall, some of her favorite moments of the movie involved Simon's parents, played by Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel. "I thought they captured Simon’s parent’s reactions beautifully in the movie... I could feel such sincerity in both of their small scenes individually addressing Simon’s coming out. I will always see Jennifer as my second mom." 

One of the other elements of the movie that my family really enjoyed included the depiction of the various emailing sequences throughout the movie. Depending on which person Simon was currently guessing at being Blue, the actors playing the mysterious correspondent rotated, all with a blue filter saturating the screen. Delaney said, "Using the Blue filter over our mystery email boyfriend adds a sense of mystique, especially when partnered with the changing characters filling the screen and voice over as Simon’s suspicions change." 

Additional elements that generated rave reviews? The addition of Ethan, an out-and-proud boy at Simon's school, as well as the inclusion of some of Simon's quirks from the book, like his affinity for Oreos. One of the funnier family conversations we had in anticipation of the movie, was whether they'd have anything Harry Potter-related in the film, which generated even bigger laughs when they actually did. 

Of course, they can't all be positive. Certain changes were made to the movie in order to generate a different thematic tone than what was possible through a movie, versus book, translation. Emotional responses were bumped higher and bigger, the cast of characters was streamlined or changed, and plot points were exaggerated or blown to a larger scale in order to convey a grander sense of drama. 

Personally? I missed the Tilt-a-Whirl ending, and it's clear from my conversations with my siblings that I'm not the only one. In the movie, the entire climactic action - of Simon meeting Blue for the first time - was made much more public and "celebrated," which was probably a deliberate tonal cue the movie wanted to hit, being that it was intended for teens... the problem is, the ending in the book is much more subtle and personal, and reflected more of the interiority of Simon that we get from his firsthand narration. Have a crowd of kids below him on the Ferris Wheel, watching him as he waited, and putting a lot of pressure on his Blue, just didn't hit that emotional point for me. 

Notes from the Field 
  • No one warned me that this soundtrack is so good. Like, it's really good. As in, something we all talked about after the fact. 
  • Great casting choices all around, but mainly in Nick Robinson, who plays Simon, and - of course - the always-glorious Jennifer Garner. Both pulled significant emotional weight through some of the film's most vital moments, and conveyed sincerity and authenticity in a narrative that really warranted it. 
  • All of the characters in this film must be loaded, because these houses are positively huge... particularly Simon's, whose digs look like the setting for a West Elm catalog photoshoot. If you're a fan of immaculate home sets, you'll be in heaven. 
  • The school musical has been changed from Oliver to Cabaret. Beau thought that change was not only a little unnecessary, but also highly unlikely, as a school would rarely actually elect to put on something as risque and subversive as Cabaret. It was like they wanted something that screamed "musical theater" more, and their eventual pick was a super unlikely one. 


Despite the fact that all of us siblings truly enjoyed both the book and the movie, and understood the necessity of the alterations made between the various mediums, at the end of the day, we couldn't help but feel one tells the story just a little bit better.

As Delaney put it, she prefers the book to the movie, "because of its ability to deepen the plot in a way that the movie isn’t able to. I like the dynamic of his family a little better in the book, maybe because it more closely reflects my own."

However, she insists on emphasizing that the movie is incredibly important viewing. "In no way is this the best movie you will ever see, but I’ll be damned if I’m not exceedingly happy that I’ve seen it. Whether you are LGBT+ or straight, you will see a bit of Simon in yourself, and that relatability is what helps make this movie so personal. While it is no Brokeback Mountain or Moonlight, Love, Simon owns what it is - a little silly and a lot heartwarming - and that is why it now owns a part of my soul."

For Beau, the changes between the two ended up being the deciding factor. "Both the movie and the book follow the same general plot, however the movie made several changes... and these changes are probably my biggest problems with the movie as I felt they were unnecessary, and even detracted from the plot.

However, like Delaney, he also really enjoyed the film. In fact, something else the two both agree on, is what order in which to take in these two story mediums: Delaney recommends reading the book first, then seeing the movie, like all three of us did. "In the case of having already seen the movie first, then you should still read the book!"

"It’s a positive way to see each form of content as a separate interpretation." 

Regardless, we hope it's clear that this is a story we all truly enjoyed and loved, and the likes of which we hope to be seeing grace the big screen again soon. Only, after we read the book, first! 

Which do you prefer, the book or the movie? When did you see Love, Simon in theaters? Have you read any of Albertalli's other books? Let me know, in the comments below!

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