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How Love, Simon Differs From The Book

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"Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda," the 2015 debut novel from Becky Albertalli, followed an in-the-closet gay teen forced to cooperate with one of his classmates or be outed to the whole school. The tale of Simon went on to be named one of the Best Books of 2015 by The Wall Street Journal, as Albertalli was given an award by the American Library Association for her efforts. Praised as a timeless coming-of-age tale with a great love story, the book would serve as the genesis of a Simon-verse (as it has since come to be called), and was the first to be given a film adaptation.

So it was that the film "Love, Simon" came to be released in 2018, with Nick Robinson in the lead role. A modest commercial and critical success, it yielded the spin-off series "Love, Victor" on Hulu, which is produced and narrated by Robinson. Though it doesn't share the book's title, the adaptation made an earnest effort to stay faithful to its source material, likely due in part to its openly gay director Greg Berlanti, known for writing "Dawson's Creek" and "The Flash."

While the adaptation was close to the book, there were some changes made to better suit the medium. With some of these details, only superfans of the Simon-verse can spot; others are more obvious. Here's a breakdown of the most significant tweaks as Simon's story journeyed across storytelling mediums.

The Title

One of the most stark differences between the book and the film is, of course, their names. The book's title, "Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda," comes from an email thread between Blue and Simon, as Jacques explains midway through the book. In this email thread, Simon and Blue are discussing the life-changing news Blue's just been given: his dad and his stepmother are expecting.

This discussion turns into a conversation on why only those that are not heterosexual have to come out, and that everyone should have to have a coming out; straight shouldn't be considered the default. Blue jokingly references the phrase "homosexual agenda," once used as a derogatory term in the fight for gay rights. Simon fires back that it should be called the Homo Sapiens Agenda if everyone should have to come out. The title captures the struggles Simon has after that email, while also being a satirical take on the negative term referenced. 

The film was titled "Love, Simon," which is reflective of another important message. Blue figures out who Simon is because of a post on Creeksecrets, and Simon owns this, writing his own post on Creeksecrets and signing it "Love, Simon." This post is Simon coming to terms with his coming out being taken from him, but also includes a great message that being who you are can be terrifying and that's difficult to overcome. 

Simon's Aged Up

Not only is the title different, but the titular character Simon himself is as well. In the book, Simon is described as having glasses, which are nowhere to be seen in the film. Maintained, however, are his music interests and love of Oreos, fun subplots in the book that fuel pivotal scenes.

While Simon's personality is pretty much maintained in the film adaptation, the decision was made to slightly age up Simon and his friends. In the book, they are juniors in high school, but in the film they are seniors, which has him mentioning colleges he'd like to attend the next fall. It's a subtle change that added to the coming-of-age and finding yourself themes of the film, while also giving the movie a cleaner ending.

"Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda" is followed by "Leah on the Offbeat," a book about Leah and her struggle with telling people she's bisexual on the cusp of high school graduation. Having them as juniors in the books gave Albertalli more room to explore the universe again, which the film didn't need. The Hulu spin-off series "Love, Victor" takes place at the same school but follows different characters and cameos from Simon, as the main character Victor struggles with coming out to his incredibly religious family; Simon is in college for the series.

The Spier Family

Not only is Simon portrayed a bit differently in the film, so is his family. In the book, Simon has two sisters; an older one named Alice who is away at college and a younger sister named Nora. Alice is not in the film; only Nora is. This tweak eliminates several smaller plots from the film, and may even be the reason for the modified ending, simply because the character isn't there and there wasn't an optimal character to give the plots to.

Nora is a freshman in high school in both the book and film, and they maintain some of her character traits between the two. In the book, she's described as more of a homebody, which is reflected in the film. The film seems to lean more into the sensitive, younger nature of the character, whereas in the book she feels more assertive in her choices and personality.

His parents, Emily and Jack, are depicted quite faithfully in the film adaptation. Emily is still a child psychologist that sometimes blurs the line between patients and her own children. Jack is filled with dad jokes, some of which are homophobic in nature, and seem to upset Simon or make him uncomfortable, even though he very clearly states the social leanings of his parents. Both are very accepting when Simon comes out to them, and show emotional vulnerability when discussing it in the film, which is consistent with their characters in the book.

The Musical

A significant portion of the book's plot revolves around the musical that many of the characters spend their fall and winter on. That musical is "Oliver!," the classic coming-of-age show based on the book "Oliver Twist." The adaptation is about a boy who struggles with his place in life, taking the blame for an action that isn't his own. This slightly parallels Simon's life in the book. He is struggling with who he is and coming out, and then takes the brunt of the response when he's outed by someone else, being bullied and tormented by his classmates. 

The musical is changed from "Oliver!" to "Cabaret" in the film. Production had intended to keep it the same in the film, but was unable to secure the rights, HuffPost reported in 2018. Greg Berlanti, the film's director, then intended to have drama teacher Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell) write her own musical based on the movie "Say Anything..." and have her students perform it. However, Berlanti ultimately decided that subplot would take up too much time and pivoted in another direction.

Berlanti felt the concept of sexual identity explored in "Cabaret" fit well with the themes present in "Love, Simon," and they were able to secure the rights. Though they couldn't use imagery from the 1972 "Cabaret" film, the production team created an appropriately-themed set.

The Love Triangles

Like any young adult series geared at teens, "Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda" is based around a tangled love triangle. Nick (one of Simon's best friends) likes Abby (a new student who recently moved to Georgia from Washington, D.C.) and Abby likes Nick too, so it should be smooth sailing from there. However, Leah (Simon's other best friend) likes Nick, which causes tension in the group. 

Then there's Martin, who likes Abby but hasn't really approached her about it. Martin discovers Simon's emails with Blue, and that Simon is gay, after reading them on a school computer Simon used, forgetting to log off. He uses this information to blackmail Simon into setting him up with Abby. All of these interactions are happening while Simon falls in love with Blue, who he believes is a guy named Cal. Martin also believes that Abby likes Simon, which causes him to out Simon. There are many moving parts to the love triangles of the book.

The film simplifies the triangles slightly, but not by much. Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) still likes Abby (Alexandra Shipp) and the feelings are returned. Leah (Katherine Langford) likes Simon, eliminating some tension but introducing a new dynamic. Martin (Logan Miller) is still very into Abby and does blackmail Simon over it. Simon isn't as confident about Blue's identity in the film, causing several different characters to voice him before his identity is revealed.  

Martin's Grand Gesture

In the book, Martin continuously tries to engage Abby in conversation any time he's around her. He does the same thing in the film. However, the film adds in a grand gesture from Martin to Abby that doesn't happen in the book, and modifies the other large-scale moment where Martin tries to impress Abby in front of Simon.

The first is when Martin, Abby, and Simon go to Waffle House to review their lines for the musical. Simon suggests this in both, but what Martin does changes between the book and the film adaptation. In the book, he makes a huge spectacle of singing one of the songs from "Oliver!," trying to show who is he, but also to impress Abby. In the film, this changes to him reciting a speech about what Abby deserves in a guy to the whole restaurant until Abby gets up and says it too, again trying to impress her but in a more explicit way.

This is followed by a grand gesture at the Homecoming football game in the film. When Martin approaches Simon, he frustratingly tells Martin to make a big move to get him off his back. Martin decides to take the microphone away from Taylor (Mackenzie Lintz) as she sings the national anthem and professes his love for Abby. She publicly turns him down. Martin becomes the talk of the school, with humiliation fueling him to out Simon and his emails with Blue.

Creeksecrets Posts

In the film, viewers get to see Simon's initial reaction to Blue's post on the school gossip Tumblr, called Creeksecrets, anonymously coming out. Simon is told about the post by Leah, and after seeing it, he makes an excuse to get off the phone with her, creates a new email (which is different than his email in the book, though Blue's address remains the same), and immediately emails Blue a letter. In the book, the reader doesn't see this. Simon says that he saw the post at the start of the school year, created an email, and replied anonymously to the post with the word "THIS" and his newly created email address.

This isn't the only way Creeksecrets is handled differently between the movie and the book. In the book, after Martin feels like Simon isn't doing enough to help him get with Abby, he makes a post on the Tumblr outing Simon over winter break. This post says he's "open for invitations" and makes discreet references to Blue. Martin takes this to a whole new level in the film. After his grand gesture, getting rejected, and being humiliated, Martin wants to bring everyone's attention to someone else. He submits a post outing Simon and his email conversations with Blue, including pictures of the emails he took. Both end up with the same outcomes: Simon comes out to his family on Christmas, he's bullied at school, and his friendship/relationship with Blue becomes strained.

Vice Principal Worth

Vice Principal Worth (Tony Hale) is a brand new character in the film. He seems to replace Mr. Wise, the English teacher regularly mentioned in the book, though by presence only and not by name or job. The other teacher, Ms. Albright, is present in a similar form in the film, scolding students for bullying Simon after he's outed by Martin's post and is a teacher generally liked by the student community. 

Mr. Worth is the teacher every student dreads: He tries too hard to be "hip" and "cool" in a desire to be liked by the students. This results in several scenes between him and Simon that feel awkward, but also result in moments where Simon and his friendship/relationship with Blue could be outed to someone. At one point he even asks Simon where he got his shoes, which are pretty basic shoes, so he can go buy a matching pair. Vice Principal Worth is the epitome of a teacher trying to be liked by the students he has authority over.

Though he wants to be liked by the student body, he doesn't seem to hesitate as a disciplinary figure. When Ms. Albright brings students to him for bullying Simon and Ethan (Clark Moore), another gay student at school, he makes them apologize and shows his acceptance of Simon being gay. While he is a new addition to the film, Hale's performance adds a nice adult dynamic and solid comic relief. 

The Elliott Smith T-Shirt

While Mr. Worth was an addition for the film, something iconic from the book did not find its way into the adaptation. The Elliott Smith shirt is, sadly, not gifted in the film, but Simon is seen wearing it. Fans of the book know the significance this had not just to Simon, but to the plot as a whole. Elliott Smith is comfort music for Simon, and that is consistent throughout the book and his emails with Blue.

Simon and Blue argue about Blue revealing himself after he figures out who Simon is. Blue stops responding to Simon's emails, which really upsets Simon. At school, he finds a bag tied to his locker. He assumes it's a prank, but when he opens it, it's an Elliott Smith "Figure 8" shirt, with a note written on bluish paper. Simon is really happy, but also angry, because he feels this is a cowardly move on Blue's part. 

Simon later figures out it wasn't at all. After receiving it, he places it under his pillow. Two weeks later, when he goes to the carnival in hopes of meeting Blue, he wears it and notices another note taped inside the shirt. This one has a phone number. This was Blue taking a step towards revealing himself. The shirt, and the hidden note within it, symbolize that Blue decided he was ready to take that step and be with Simon, which was a sweet message missing from the film.

Ferris Wheel vs. Tilt-a-Whirl

In the film, Blue uses a Ferris wheel as a metaphor for how he's feeling about life in his Tumblr post. The Ferris wheel is used again when Simon asks Blue to meet him at one during a carnival through Creeksecrets. The two meet at the Ferris wheel, ride it, and share their first kiss at the top as the rest of the school watches. While the use of carnival ride meeting places is in the film, it's a different ride with a different meaning. 

Blue describes a horrible experience with a Tilt-A-Whirl in his emails to Simon in the book. While they discuss Oreos, which Simon claims are their own food group, Blue admits that he can't eat deep-fried Oreos ever again. He had them at a county fair and then rode a Tilt-A-Whirl, which really messed with his stomach. 

After Blue stops responding to Simon, Simon sends a final email, saying he will be at the carnival and he'd love to meet Blue there. Simon searches the whole carnival, and has given up as he approaches the Tilt-A-Whirl, confident he won't find Blue there. Blue surprises him, sitting next to him, revealing himself to be Bram. He braves the Tilt-A-Whirl because it means he can be out to Simon, which is a huge step for both of them and sends a beautiful message about doing things you might be wary of for the person you love. 

The Ending

Simon, Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale), Nick, Abby, and Leah are in Simon's car when Simon announces they will be ditching school, like a fun senior ditch day during the end of the film. They all have their coffee and drive off on an adventure. It's a fun way to end the film, especially since they aged the characters up from juniors to seniors.

In the book, there is quite a bit that happens after Simon and Bram get together at the carnival. The two are out and together at school and go to the talent show with Nick to support Abby's dance. They are pleasantly surprised when the final act of the show is a band named "Emoji" with Leah as drummer and Nora as lead guitarist. Alice is at the show, and devises a plan to give Simon and Bram some private time at the Spier home, the book ending as the rest of the Spiers come home and see Simon and Bram "working" on schoolwork.

The scenes after the carnival show Simon and Bram settling into life as a couple, and hint at what's in store for them going into the summer and their senior year. The film can't necessarily do that with the aging up of the characters, but depicting them driving off towards an adventure is a great metaphor for the next stage of their lives.