Review of Simon Sort of Says

Simon Sort of Says Simon Sort of Says
by Erin Bow
Middle School    Disney-Hyperion    320 pp.
1/23    9781368082853    $16.99

Seventh grader Simon and his family are new to Grin and Bear It, Nebraska, an unusual town located in the National Quiet Zone, a center for scientific research that restricts radio transmissions. There’s no internet, and even microwave ovens are prohibited. They left their home in Omaha because, as Simon tells it, his family is odd, with a mother who is an embalmer and a father who plays the sackbut (“It’s a kind of trombone”). These initial details are only the beginning of what builds into a gallimaufry of ­eccentricity. One neighbor has an emu farm; Simon’s new friend, Agate, has siblings named Jade, Jasper, Coral, Onyx, and Mica and a large supply of witty radical T-shirts. There are funeral-home disasters, escaped wildlife, and plans for an elaborate prank choreographed by Simon and Agate. Hidden in all this jokey mayhem are small hints of a dark backstory. Why has the family relocated? Why can’t Simon be in a room with just one exit? When it is revealed to the reader that Simon was the sole survivor of a school shooting in his previous town, the tone of the story shifts abruptly, inviting a reread to view the tale in a new light given our insight into Simon’s past. This novel takes a considerable narrative risk and would be an excellent catalyst for discussion.

From the March/April 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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