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Simon Says Hardcover – May 1, 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

High school junior Charles Weston, whose paintings convey "truth" so powerfully that all who see them promptly fear and/or dislike him, has just arrived at Whitman, a boarding school for artists. The school's amenities notwithstanding, Charles has enrolled simply in order to meet Graeme Brandt, a senior, and author of a YA novel that Charles finds brilliant in its send-up of people's shallowness ("Life is just one big game of Simon Says.... Nobody even wants to admit they're playing"). Charles, who now refuses to let others see his paintings, is hoping that Graeme can show him "how to get beyond the game... show me how to keep from locking myself away inside a studio forever." While the boys connect immediately, Charles realizes that Graeme is also "playing," just like Graeme's protagonist ("He knew what Simon wanted before Simon even said anything"). When Charles pushes Graeme to find his true self ("You're nothing but a lifeless mirror that reflects everyone's expectations!"), Graeme commits suicide and camouflages it as a heart attack, leaving a note explaining his actions to Charles. Alphin (Counterfeit Son) adds texture by inserting Graeme's journals between Charles's narration, and she brings unusual candor to her portrayal of gay characters. But while the author taps into adolescent visions of the artist's life and the difficulties of being an individual, her constant reiteration of these themes grows tiresome. Metaphors run a little thick, and the quagmires seemed overcooked. Ages 14-up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up-In this psychological novel, Charles enters a boarding school for the arts hoping to find a place where he can stay true to his nonconformist nature. Absorbed with painting in a vivid and distorted way, he wants to make friends with people who like him for himself and teachers who will accept his work. As in the children's game Simon Says, he finds himself mirroring others rather than pleasing himself. Charles knows that Graeme, a student writer whom he idolizes, shares a search for identity. Excerpts from Graeme's journal appear at intervals, revealing a parallel childhood. Elements of a homosexual crush draw the two together but the path to self-realization has a tragic end when Graeme commits suicide. As in many YA novels, the adults here are peripheral and antagonistic, providing a perfect setting for self-perceived isolation. Charles's musical roommate, Adrian, and the editor of the student journal, Rachel, are well-developed supporting characters who, as grounded individuals, become the ones who ultimately help the protagonist feel a sense of belonging. Plot development is emotional rather than eventful, and some of the details surrounding Graeme's death are not plausible. It defies logic that, in a small boarding school, Charles would learn about the teen's "fatal heart attack" from the newspaper. Still, adolescents will relate to the disconnected characters who feel painfully alone and will be encouraged by the acceptance of their uniqueness.
Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books; 1st edition (May 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152163557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152163556
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,191,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Even in kindergarten, Charles knew that he didn't want to play Simon Says. He didn't want to do what somebody named Simon said. He wanted to be himself. If it was a choice of playing Simon Says or standing in the corner, he stood in the corner. Charles is a sophomore in high school now, and he is still determined that he will not play Simon Says.

But people have always been dissatisfied with who Charles is. His life is full of Simons telling him to be different. Don't use his left hand; don't paint pictures that make them feel uncomfortable; make them proud of him; study for the right kind of job. The more he uses his paintings to show people how he feels, the more they hate him. They make fun of him, tear up his class assignments, and call him names. Teachers harass him, and his parents are ashamed of him.

That's why Charles wants to meet Graeme. When Graeme was a freshman at Whitman High School for the Arts, he wrote a book, The Eye of the Storm, that was published and made people sit up and blink. Charles knew as soon as he read it that he had to go to Whitman, too, and meet Graeme. Here was somebody who knew all about the Simon Says games people play, and yet he obviously never played them himself. Charles knows that he can learn from Graeme how to be himself without playing the game, either.

But Graeme is not what Charles expected him to be. Graeme is a senior at Whitman now, and he hasn't written another book since his first one. Graeme himself doesn't know why. Nor does he know why he's a disappointment to Charles. What does Charles want from him? The relationship between the two boys becomes more and more complicated, until it erupts in a storm that will change them both forever.
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A Kid's Review on October 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't believe this book! It's so TRUE! I opened it Saturday morning and I couldn't stop reading until I finished it that afternoon. It just sucked me into Charles's world. I felt like I was part Charles and part Graeme, and like I wished I could be more like Adrian even though I didn't like him at all at first. But these guys were so REAL to me!
I thought I was the only guy who had these thoughts and these fears and was struggling with these issues. But this book says it all. It's okay to be different. It's okay to tell your parents you can't be the person they expect you to be - they might even accept you as you are. Or maybe they won't. The book doesn't promise any happy endings, but it's honest.
All I can say is that every teen, whether you're into painting or writing or music, or whether you're a jock or a geek or a Goth or WHOEVER you are, you have to read this book!! I feel different after reading it, and you will too.
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Format: Paperback
While I enjoyed the story and the insight into the creative mind and process, I was thoroughly annoyed by the theme. Constantly repeated, over and over again. Simon says this, Simon says that. I got what the author was saying about conformity and being true to yourself, but I didn't need to be reminded every page. The repetition robbed the idea of its dramatic weight.

I did like the matter of fact depiction of gay characters. I'm heartened to see this becoming more common in YA literature.
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Format: Hardcover
This is my favorite book. Period. I couldn't take my eyes off the pages once I started reading. I would stay awake all night during the summer reading it until I could no longer keep my eyes open. The deepness of every word Charles said amazed me. It made me consider things in way I've never even thought of. The book made me think, "Is my life this way? Do I do this?"

This is also one of the only books that I've ever been able to feel like I was in. I cried when Charles was hurtful to Adrian and I was angered when Rachel kissed Charles back. And at the end of the book, I was sad that it was over. So much so that I mailed the author to talk to her about the book. Her nice replied contented me, but I still continue to read the book all the time.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to challenge the 'traditional' ways of thinking. But I would also recommend that you read this book word by word, so soak up everything the book has to offer.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is pretty good. It delves deep into metaphores and life according to a somewhat depressed and jaded teen. It explores the psycology of someone who is tired of faking their way through life and it's a very "heavy" book to read. I wouldn't recommend it for light readers.

Over all it sparked my interest and kept me drawn to it. The main character has a dark quality that seems a little too adult for a teen book but comes to a cosmic understanding by the end. The last third of the book might scare you, but the ending will surprise you and make you feel better about the main character.
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