As sixteen-year-old Simon comes of age over the course of the novel, one of the major ways that he develops is in his ability to empathize with and care deeply for others. While he begins the novel insisting he has several best friends—Leah, Nick, and Abby—he eventually realizes that while he's known Leah and Nick for years, he knows little about their home lives or inner thoughts, and he has no idea what Abby's family situation is like except for in broad strokes. Through his emails with Blue, Simon is forced to recognize that in order to be a truly good friend to Leah, Nick, and Abby, as well as a good partner to Blue, he needs to be more curious and interested in the people around him in their own rights—not just in how they relate to him.
At the beginning of the novel, Simon insists to the reader that his friendship with Leah and Nick is rooted simply in the fact that they've been friends for years (Nick and Simon have been friends since preschool, while Leah joined the group in sixth grade). Because of this long history, Simon thinks that they don't need to talk to each other about personal things or connect on a deeper emotional level. While there may be some truth to Simon's assessment, especially since the friends seem to have settled into a relatively comfortable routine and way of interacting with each other over the years, the lack of emotional depth in their friendships makes them all feel somewhat isolated and disconnected from one another. For example, Simon struggles to explain Leah's prickly nature and nobody is willing to acknowledge the crush she very obviously has on Nick. Essentially, though Simon claims that their friendship doesn't actually need anything more to be valid, it's clear that the relationships could absolutely benefit from actually have some of the tough conversations bubbling under the surface. This is supported by the way that Simon feels about his friends, both before and after coming out. Before telling them that he's gay, Simon feels unmoored in relationships with Nick and Leah, even as he tells the reader their friendships are solid. After Martin forcibly outs Simon on the creeksecrets Tumblr, however, Nick and Leah rally around Simon and offer him support that appears unprecedented and that makes him feel far more comfortable and supported.
When, after five months of anonymous emailing, Simon makes an incorrect guess at who Blue is in real life, he's confronted with the fact that he doesn't know enough about his friends or classmates to even successfully unravel Blue's clues about his identity. Simon sees this as proof that while he describes himself as a nosy person, he's only nosy about "stupid things" and not anything of note, such as his classmates' religious beliefs, family situations, or even how well his classmates do in school. This suggests that there's a major difference in being nosy as Simon describes it and being truly interested and curious about other people. After this realization, Simon makes the conscious decision to reach out to his friends and classmates and learn more about them. For instance, he asks Abby directly about why her mom lives in Georgia while her dad and brother live in Washington, D.C. Similarly, when he finally discovers that Blue is his soccer playing classmate Bram, Simon realizes he knew nothing about Bram until now (of course, since Simon knew a lot about Blue, he unwittingly knew a lot about Bram, but he hadn’t realized they were the same person).
It's also worth noting that Blue is the first person in the novel that Simon gets to know on a deeper level, and that he's able to do so mostly because they only speak to each other anonymously through email. This reinforces that getting to know someone on a deeper level like this is something that can be uncomfortable and anxiety inducing—especially for individuals like Simon who have spent their lives making a point to not connect with people on a deeper level. However, the happiness that Simon feels after discovering who Bram is and learning more about his other friends suggests that this kind of knowing is not just essential to forming strong bonds with other people, but is a mark of maturity as well.
Relationships and Empathy ThemeTracker
Relationships and Empathy Quotes in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
“I actually think people would be cool about it,” Martin says. “You should be who you are.”
I don't even know where to begin with that. Some straight kid who barely knows me, advising me on coming out.
“Remember the way people would look at you blankly and say, ‘Um, okaaay,’ after you finished talking? Everyone just had to make it so clear that, whatever you were thinking or feeling, you were totally alone. The worst part, of course, was that I did the same thing to other people.”
If Blue were a real junior at Creekwood with a locker and a GPA and a Facebook profile, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be telling him anything. I mean, he is a real junior at Creekwood. I know that. But in a way, he lives in my laptop.
Like the way you can memorize someone's gestures but never know their thoughts. And the feeling that people are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows.
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 mean, how does a person look when his walls are coming down?
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 is definitely annoying that straight (and white, for that matter) is the default, and that the only people who have to think about their identity are the ones who don't fit that mold.”
“And you know what? You don't get to say it's not a big thing. This is a big fucking thing, okay? This was supposed to be—this is mine. I'm supposed to decide when and where and who knows and how I want to say it.”
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.
“I owe you an apology, kid.”
I look up at him.
“What you said on Friday. About the gay jokes.”
“It's just, you know. I get that you were in a difficult position. But you don't get to make the decisions about my love life. I choose who I date.” She shrugs. “I would think you would understand that.”
It's weird, because of all the things I feel guilty about, it never occurred to me to feel guilty about Abby. But I'm a fucking idiot. Because who you like can't be forced or persuaded or manipulated. If anyone knows that, it's me.
I'm a shitty friend.
But then I think about Ms. Albright making it her life's mission to get those in-tha-butt guys suspended. And how pissed off and determined she looked, slapping the handbook down on that chair backstage.
I wish I had brought her another bouquet or a card or a freaking tiara. I don't know. Something just from me.
I guess I assumed that Blue would be white. Which kind of makes me want to smack myself. White shouldn't be the default any more than straight should be the default. There shouldn't even be a default.