“Just be happy, okay? I want you to miss me, and think about me, and be in love with me, and be happy.”
“It’s been more than a year since Simon and Blue turned their anonymous online flirtation into an IRL relationship, and just a few months since Abby and Leah’s unforgettable night at senior prom.
Now the Creekwood High crew are first years at different colleges, navigating friendship and romance the way their story began—on email.”
[SPOILERS Ahead, including for “Love, Victor”]
Love, Creekwood is Becky Albertalli’s new novella that bridges between her “Simonverse” novels (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, The Upside of Unrequited, Leah on the Offbeat) and the new Hulu TV series “Love, Victor.” It is an epistolary work, told through emails between Simon Spier, Bram Greenfeld, Leah Burke, and Abby Suso as they navigate their first year of college. Other beloved Simonverse characters are featured as well, including Nick Eisner, Taylor Metternich, and Garrett Laughlin.
I’ve been anticipating this new work from Becky, even more so after binge-watching “Love, Victor,” which raises a lot of questions about what events transpired between the end of Leah (where Simon plans to attend Haverford College while Bram is off to Columbia University) and the two living together in an apartment—sorry, a flat—in New York City. But mostly, getting that glimpse again into the “Spierfeld” relationship made me want to go back and inhabit their world again.
Love, Creekwood certainly didn’t disappoint. It holds all the usual humor, voice, and emotional beats of Becky’s novels. Even without the typical first-person narration of the Simon books, all the characterizations shine through from each person. What I love about Albertalli’s writing in general is the way she truly builds up this universe that the characters inhabit, and us readers are just getting a glimpse into a small slice of it—even when we’re absent, their lives continue to play out, and then we come back to see a little more of it. Yet, because of how great Becky writes their personalities, interactions, relationships, and experiences, we want so desperately to see more, to know them, to be there.
That’s what makes this book compelling to me; through the emails, we don’t get to know every single intimate thought of one narrator; we don’t even get to witness events as they happen—we learn about them through recounting or little hints. There were a lot of moments, like Simon going out for his birthday with his roommate and then coming back to find Bram in his dorm room, or Simon’s surprise for Bram at the Ferris wheel, that I wish I could’ve seen more of. Yet, not getting full access to those scenes reflects what the characters are learning to deal with as well—having to hear about each other’s experiences, rather than getting to share them, together, in the moment. As Bram explains,
“You know what’s been an unexpectedly hard adjustment? The fact that we don’t know all the same people anymore. I know that’s such a weird thing to miss. But it was really its own kind of language, having all those people in common: Garrett and Abby and Leah and Nick and everyone, even Martin. And now I’m surrounded by people you’ve never met, and you’re surrounded by people I’ve never met, and I don’t know, Simon. I really miss inhabiting your universe.”
I also appreciate how Becky incorporates those “off-stage” scenes. Something that’s difficult with epistolary novels is being able to describe those events without it seeming forced. There were definitely a few moments that felt a bit unnatural, when I became aware that experiences were only being conveyed to serve the purpose of getting me, the reader, in the know. On the whole, however, I think Albertalli still does a good job of keeping that relay of information true to the characters.
As a just-graduated high-school senior about to start my freshman year of college as well, the characters in Love, Creekwood feel extremely relatable and real. Their worries, their thoughts, and the way they interact all hold true to people my age (or with what I know, at least)—the side conversations during the group chats, the dynamics of the friend group, the way they type and speak. This passage especially stuck out to me, because it’s representative of the thoughts crossing our minds as we stand on the cusp of this huge and unfamiliar change in our lives:
“But I kept thinking about last year, and the year before that, and how being near you was this everyday thing I took completely for granted. And we don’t get to go back. We don’t get to do high school again. And, yeah, I knew that intellectually, but I don’t think I fully processed it until now. I guess being on a literal express train away from you really made it sink in.”
I’ve been reading some reviews in which people complain that there’s no real plot/point to the story. And yeah, maybe there’s no blackmail from M*rten Add*son, or protagonists navigating how to come out about their sexuality, but there’s still the important overarching plot points throughout seven months’ worth of events: Simon and Bram trying to figure out how to adjust to their long-distance relationship, and Leah and Abby working out how to be upfront about their feelings to each other. Both of these plot points develop across the story and then culminate. And while this novella might not be a “necessary” addition to the Simon series, it both satisfied a lot of curiosity I had after watching “Love, Victor” and just made me happy to be back in the Simonverse with these characters I love.
Becky also does a great job of explaining why Simon feels the need to transfer. The popular “school of thought” seems to be that young people going off to college should consider where they go independent of their relationship, and to not prioritize their significant other in that decision. The way Becky develops Simon and Bram’s relationship in this story, however, really justifies Simon’s decision to transfer in a way that the reader understands it’s best for both of their happiness. As Simon explains,
“And I also want you to know that I don’t see this as a sacrifice. Because I wouldn’t be giving anything up. The only year that’s been even partially written is this one…Bram, you wouldn’t believe how much I fell in love with this place the minute I knew I wanted to transfer. I know that sounds completely absurd, but it all just feels so precious right now. Like it’s not a place that’s keeping us apart. It’s just a place. And it’s a place I get to keep, no matter what. It’s in my nesting doll now.”
I like that Simon gave Haverford a chance. But I also think it’s important to realize that there’s nothing wrong with realizing you are happier someplace else, with someone you love. I mean, I’m not a love expert, I’m eighteen years old. Maybe it is a foolish decision of them, maybe it isn’t worth it to do all that for your high-school S.O., but at the same time, they’re absolutely thriving in “Love, Victor,” so yeah, I’d like to believe it works out for them.
The only fault I can find with this book is that I wish it were even longer! I just love the characters and all their dynamics so much. This novella provides so many amazing moments—the New Year’s jam sesh, Bram’s birthday surprise, Simon’s birthday surprise, Leah and Abby’s Valentine’s Day Bingo, the start of Bram’s crush on Simon, Garrett’s Guy Fieri hair…Becky Albertalli is so, so good at balancing all the laugh-out-loud parts with the sweet, emotional moments. She’s so good at writing both great friendships and great romantic relationships. Reading this novella was such a warm and comforting experience, and I’m grateful I got to inhabit this universe again, even if just for a little while.
“…Taylor just started singing by herself. And it was one of those moments, Simon. You want to roll your eyes, because it’s Taylor, but her voice kind of stopped us all in our tracks. It was that song ‘More Than Words’…Nick jumped in and started playing it on his guitar and doing this really quiet vocal harmony, and I think we were all a little spellbound…and Abby smiled and said, ‘I just wish I could freeze this moment.’ So Nick just kind of stared at them for a minute…he got this faraway look on his face, and started talking about time and memory…It was basically this: When we say we want to freeze time, what we mean is that we want to control our memories. We want to choose which moments we’ll keep forever. We want to guarantee the best ones won’t slip away from us somehow. So when something beautiful happens, there’s this impulse to press pause and save the game. We want to make sure we can find our way back to that moment.”
By the way: you know what’s great? Becky is donating 100% of the profits from this book to the Trevor Project. Also, don’t forget to buy from independent bookstores! I got my copy from Charis Books & More, which is the feminist bookstore featured in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda!
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