As a coming of age novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda necessarily tackles the issues that sixteen-year-old Simon faces in his process of growing up and coming out. However, the novel also pays close attention to the ways in which Simon's entire nuclear family is in a very similar process of growth and development. With Simon's older sister, Alice, out of state at her first year of college, and with his younger sister, Nora, starting high school as a freshman, all three Spier children are immersed in moments of major change, which consequently influences how the family interacts and defines itself. By paying particular attention to the changes that happen within Simon's family, the novel demonstrates that coming of age isn't just something that happens to individuals in a vacuum—families must also change and adapt as individuals grow and develop.
Throughout the novel, Simon reveals that his family is uncomfortable with change, even though it’s a normal and expected part of the teenage experience. He says that one of the reasons he was hesitant to come out was that he didn't want his parents to make a big deal of it. Simon's dad especially seems to struggle with any small changes in family life, even something as small as needing to record The Bachelor so the whole family can watch regardless of Simon's rehearsal schedule for the school play. Simon suggests that his parents’ difficulty with change makes the three kids—Simon, Nora, and Alice—especially secretive about the changes they're going through as they grow up and develop. Simon also recognizes that he, too, struggles with individual family members' changes, as when he refuses to drop the subject when he notices that Nora got yet another piercing in her ear. Taken together, the way that Simon's family interacts with each other and expects each other to be, change, or not change creates the sense that the Spier family isn't necessarily open to growth or development—while the secretiveness of the Spier children about their own changes makes it very clear that they are all indeed changing and growing, despite the family's general discomfort with that fact.
One of the major ways that the novel explores the changes taking place within the Spier family is in how the family handles holidays. These special days affirm that the kids in the family are all growing up and changing, and that everyone in the Spier family must accept and adapt to those changes. Simon is quick to observe the ways in which his family's observation of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas this year differs greatly from how they've celebrated in years past. This makes him extremely uncomfortable and causes him to feel unmoored in what he thought of as sacred, unchanging rituals in which every family member has a specific role to play. Some of the changes have to do with the fact that Alice, a freshman in college, no longer lives at home, which makes the time she does spend at home during the holidays feel extra precious to the rest of the family. Simon especially is very put off when confronted with proof that Alice has a life at college that's very different from the life she led at home—and that her new college life can and will change who Alice is and how she interacts with her family. Simon sees Alice's choice to take a mysterious phone call from who he assumes is her boyfriend rather than continue participating in the all-family Facebook scavenger hunt as evidence that the holidays are no longer what they used to be. Meanwhile, Simon’s decision to come out to his family on Christmas morning makes it clear that the Spiers will have to adjust to a new normal—and in doing so, reevaluate how they celebrate holidays as the Spier children approach adulthood.
Despite the entire family's general discomfort with change, several moments suggest that even though the changes may be uncomfortable in the short term, they're absolutely necessary for the long-term health and harmony of the family. Dad, for example, tells Simon that he was absolutely right to call out his habit of making homophobic comments and promises that he'll stop, an inarguably positive change regardless of Simon's sexuality. Simon also informs his parents that their insistence on making note of every tiny change their children undergo makes those perfectly normal changes, like shaving or starting to date, feels overbearing. With this, Simon makes the case that change, while uncomfortable at times, is an essential part of growing up and coming of age. His parents' agreement to try their best to follow through on Simon's request to not make such a big deal out of the small things is an indicator that just as their children are growing and changing, Mom and Dad must also learn to adapt and celebrate the people their children are in the process of becoming.
Family, Change, and Growing Up ThemeTracker
Family, Change, and Growing Up Quotes in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Leah once said that she'd rather have people call her fat directly than have to sit there and listen to them talking shit about some other girl's weight. I actually think I agree with that. Nothing is worse than the secret humiliation of being insulted by proxy.
I need to spend some time in my head with this new Simon. My parents have a way of ruining things like this. They get so curious. It's like they have this idea of me, and whenever I step outside of that, it blows their minds. There's something so embarrassing about that in a way I can't even describe.
But I'm tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.
I hate feeling so distant from Nick and Leah. It's not like keeping a normal crush a secret, because we never talk about our crushes anyway, and it works out fine. Even Leah's crush on Nick. I see it, and I'm sure Nick sees it, but there's this unspoken agreement that we never talk about it.
It's Christmas Eve day, and something feels a little bit off.
Not bad, just off. I don't know how to explain it. We're hitting everyone of the Spier traditions.
The problem is, I'm beginning to realize I hardly know anything about anyone. I mean I generally know who's a virgin. But I don't have a clue whether most people's parents are divorced, or what their parents do for a living […] And these are my best friends. I've always thought of myself as nosy, but I guess I'm just nosy about stupid stuff.
“But they're supposed to be Alice and Nora. They're not supposed to be different,” I explain.
“They're not allowed to change?” Abby laughs. “But you're changing. You're different than you were five months ago.”
“I'm not different!"
“Simon, I just watched you pick up a random guy in a gay bar. You're wearing eyeliner. And you're completely wasted.”