An Ode to the Tome: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Highway Bodies and An American Marriage

We all have those books. The ‘I fell asleep reading you’, ‘I dropped you in the bath’, ‘I covered you in crumbs as I devoured you over lunch’ – the un-put-downables that became like instant best friends or toxic lovers. To celebrate the powerful ways in which words can rouse us, we’re asking our favourite book bloggers to pen An Ode to A Tome, love letters to three books as penned by the authors and artists appearing in this year’s program.

This week, Tamsien West shares her heartfelt gratitude to the books she loves best: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliHighway Bodies by Alison Evans and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.

Love must be the most enduring and universal human experience, and it’s the one most often examined through writing of all kinds. From modern song lyrics to ancient oral storytelling and so many books in-between, people love to talk about love. I’ve been wondering lately if that’s because it’s an emotion and experience that both brings us together and tears us apart. It defines so much of our lives, and yet it remains difficult to define in words.

These three books are all ones that I dearly love. They are also books that happen to explore different love in different ways, both the good and bad it can bring out in us all.

So, let me tell you about all the ways I loved these books, and why you should read them before diving into the events by these brilliant authors at MWF19.

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I loved this book because… Becky Albertalli has a direct line to the teenage psyche. I was transported back to my awkward 15 year old self, trying to work up the courage to express how I felt to a boy who had captured my imagination.

Some of the moments are cheek-achingly adorable and I just couldn’t stop myself from smiling happily at Simon’s crush-focused drama. Poetically renamed to ‘Love, Simon’ in the terrific movie adaptation, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is both a coming-out tale and a classic high school romance.

Highway Bodies by Alison Evans

I loved this book because… I love zombies, I love YA fiction, I love Australian stories, and I love found-family moments. This book has all of the above, so it’s basically my ideal book.

Alison Evans does NOT pull punches; it’s a zombie apocalypse novel with copious amounts of blood and gore set in Victoria, Australia. It’s both comforting and unsettling to witness the end of civilisation from your own backyard!

I also loved and deeply appreciated the diverse cast of characters and the bonds they form with each other. Love between siblings, friends and a dash of romantic love is all given space to thrive at the end of the world.

I’ll have the pleasure of diving deeply into our shared love of the families we choose for ourselves with Alison at MWF on Sunday 1 September!

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

I loved this book because… it’s a beautifully written, nuanced exploration of the complexities of love and obligation. An American Marriage delves into the injustice of the American court system.

It also explores the insidious nature of structural racism, and how it’s woven into the daily lived experience of African American people.

Above all, it’s an eloquent examination of how love shapes families for better and worse. It’s the kind of book best experienced without preconceived notions and one I wholeheartedly recommend you surrender to.

Tamsien West is a digital content creator, sharing her love of reading and journaling as Babbling Books on Instagram, Youtube, and her blog. Tamsien organises and runs creative journaling workshops designed to spark creativity, and is a voracious reader with a particular passion for feminism, science fiction, memoir and graphic novels.