Friday, January 27, 2023

Simon Sort of Says

Bow, Erin. Simon Sort of Says
January 31, 2023 by Disney-Hyperion
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

**Some spoilers, but most are mentioned in the book description.**

Simon and his parents move from Omaha, Nebraska to Grin and Bear It, a very small town that is a electronic quiet zone because of radio telescopes. His mother has bought a funeral home that is having trouble finding someone to run it, and his father is the deacon and program director for a Catholic church. The family wanted to move after the father lost his job, but also because of a traumatic event in which Simon was involved that made him very interesting to news people. He still struggles with the trauma, and just doesn't want anyone to know about it. Grin and Bear It, and the lack of internet, works for him because he doesn't want his classmates to be able to Google him. He makes friends with Agate, who is on the autism spectrum and lives on a farm with her large family, and Kevin Matapang, whose mother works with the radio telescope and whoe father runs a restaurant. Agate has very specific interests, including helping to raise guide dogs and communicating with space aliens. She sets Simon up with a puppy to be trained, Hercules, and after dealing with lack of sleep involved in raising a puppy, he warms to the dog, and it helps him process some of his trauma. He's had all of the support that he needs, and his parents are very much aware that he is still processing what happened. When the news gets out in the new community, it causes problems, but this doesn't stop Simon from helping Agate with her plan to simulate space communication. Kevin helps by providing a microwave, and the trio manage to carry off their elaborate plan. Simon's parents both run into newsworthy challenges in their own jobs, which cause the media to once again be interested in the family. Will Simon be able to deal with the new pressure and find a way to go forward with his new life in Grin and Bear It while managing the trauma of his past?
Strengths: I was familiar with Bow's work from Stand on the Sky, which was a more serious adventure book, and was pleasantly surprised at how funny much of the writing was. Given the heavy topic, it had a rather Sonnenblickian feel to it. I highlighted lots of masterful, clever lines like (from the E ARC) "That squirrel is now thirty percent Jesus by volume. It's our new god", after a squirrel has eaten communion hosts. The look into a small town funeral home was fascinating, and the townspeople, though quirky, were generally nice. Readers who like serious topics will enjoy the information about Simon dealing with his trauma, and fans of Keller's Jennifer Chan is not alone will enjoy Agate's quest to stage an alien communication event. Hercules is an adorable working dog, and notes at the end indicate that Bow had sensitivity readers for many of the facets of her book. 
Weaknesses: There were so many things going on in this book that it alsmost felt like it could have been divided into two different stories. 
What I really think: This would be a good companion to Holt's This is Not a Drill or Isler's Aftermath, and for some reason put me in mid of Haydu's One Jar of Magic, although Simon Sort of Says is very much a realistic fiction book. 

Ms. Yingling

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