printed copy

Educating Simon: A Novel

Robin Reardon

ISBN 9780758284761
Publish Date 7/29/2014
Format Trade Paperback
Categories Fiction, General, Kensington

Everything sixteen-year-old Simon Fitzroy-Hunt loves is in England. There's his school, his boyfriend, his cat, and especially Oxford University, which Simon plans to attend just as his beloved late father planned. But all of Simon's certainties come crashing down when his mother remarries and drags him to Boston with her.

Furious and unforgiving, Simon finds plenty to resent in America. His stepsister, Persie, is overindulged by her father and struggling with Asperger syndrome. And Simon's school project--coaching a young student for the national Spelling Bee--hits a complication when eleven-year-old Toby makes a confession: there's a girl trapped inside his body, and her name is Kay.

Helping Kay find her way begins changing Simon too, opening him to different perspectives, revealing a strength that's gone untapped until now. And as the life he's known, and the future he envisioned, slips further away each day, he realizes he can either lose his direction entirely, or forge a new--and perhaps even better--path. . .

Praise for the novels of Robin Reardon

"Real and honest." --VOYA on The Revelations of Jude Connor

"Mesmerizing. . ..A rare book that will appeal to young adults and adult readers alike." --Publishers Weekly on The Evolution of Ethan Poe

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. As the story opens, Simon is not a very likable person and, in fact, essentially has no friends. He acts as though not only does this not trouble him, but also that it’s actually the way he likes things. By the end of the story, do you think he has changed into someone capable of real friendship? If so, do you think he could be friends with someone he didn’t consider to be at least close to his intellectual equal?

2. In the beginning of the story, Simon is furious with his mother for uprooting him at a critical juncture in his academic career. He comes to the conclusion that he doesn’t matter very much to her, that her guilt over a childhood event and the absolution he thinks she wants are more important to her than the rest of his life. Do you think he’s correct? Toward the end of the story, as he looks back over what happened as a result of his mother’s decision, do you think the results exonerate the selfishness that Simon saw in her?

3. Simon’s very early take on Persie is that she’s a cat who needs an attitude adjustment. What characteristics has he noted that bring him to this conclusion? Who else in the story has similar character traits?

4. Do you think Michael Vitale is gay? If so, do you think Straight Edge can change that? If he’s not gay, what is the source of his attraction to Simon?

5. When Kay tells Simon her secret, Simon finds it confusing and has at least some trouble taking it seriously. If you don’t identify as transgender, how does what she tells Simon feel to you? Is it real, or in her imagination? Should she be encouraged or discouraged? If you do identify as transgender, what do you think would help those who don’t understand how real and how undeniable the situation is for you?

6. According to Ned Salazar, Luther Pinter “puts his own needs first a little more often than I would want in a partner.” Based on how Luther handles his time with Simon, do you agree, or would you describe Luther differently?

7. Simon’s meditation in the Boston College labyrinth leads him to understand that he wants the “Hallelujah” referred to in the Leonard Cohen song by the same name. What do you think he means by that? What would a relationship based on the Hallelujah look like to you?

8. After the bombings, Persie insists on seeing the memorial items near the marathon finish line. As she watches Simon react to the display of hats, she is troubled by her own inability to feel strongly about what happened on April 15. Can you put yourself in her shoes? Will your own capacity for empathy make that possible?

9. Consider Simon’s relationship with the imaginary Gorgeous Graeme throughout the story. When Simon returns to London and visits Swithin Academy, he encounters the real Graeme Godfrey for the first time in several months. As you watch this encounter, how disconcerting do you find the difference between the two GGs? Do you think Simon will be able, finally, to leave Graeme behind? Can you imagine having a lover who isn’t real but who would always be there for you, who would understand your needs and troubles, who would love you as you need to be loved and make no conflicting demands? If you can, how difficult would it be to end that relationship? What would have to happen for you to be able to let it go?

10. When Simon learns about Oxford’s initial decision regarding granting him an interview, he goes through a transformation, or he believes he does. And when the decision is reversed, he believes himself to be less invested in his father’s dream. Do you believe him? And after he returns to Boston and finds Kay in trouble, is his response to her problem—and the degree to which he involves himself— another transformation, or the only true one?

About Robin Reardon:

Robin Reardon is an inveterate observer of human nature and has been writing forever—childish songs, poems, little plays. More recent efforts include short stories, creative non-fiction, and novels for and about teenagers. By day Robin works as a communications manager for an international financial institution, writing, editing the work of others, and creating strategic communications approaches specializing in intranet delivery of internal communications. Interests outside of writing include singing, photography, and the study of comparative religions. Robin writes in a butter yellow study with a view of the Boston, Massachusetts, skyline.

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