Representing disability, Hannah Marshall
See Ya, Simon
“Simon’s my best friend, and sometime in the next year or two years, he’s going to die.” Powerful, funny, heart-warming and heart-breaking, See Ya, Simon by David Hill is a novel that everyone needs to read.
See Ya, Simon follows 14-year-old Nathan as he chronicles his last year with his best friend Simon. Simon is much like most teenage boys – charming, witty, and out to impress any girl. However, Simon also has muscular dystrophy and is expected to die within the next few years. The novel writes in raw truth the struggles of Simon’s disability, while recording the hilarious and heart-warming moments of Nathan and Simon’s last year together.
First published in 1992, this book is something of a relic – “Fourth Form” replaces Year 10, calling on the phone means using a landline, and trying to impress your crush means actually talking to them – in real life. While the setting of the book will be dated to readers of today, its ideas are timeless, covering everything from friendship, to crushes, to death. Nathan is a likable and relatable character, who struggles with issues still relevant to teenagers today – he’s caught up in the divorce of his parents and, like most of us, is lost when it comes to planning the future. Simon is impossible not to love, and his larger-than-life personality leaps off the pages. Hill creates quirky, authentic characters who will haunt the imagination of readers, and make for a highly relatable and enjoyable story. Despite being over 20 years old, the ideas and characters of See Ya, Simon remain just as relevant.
At less than 200 pages, this book is a quick read; I easily finished it within two days. But, despite its short length, this novel certainly doesn’t lack depth. It handles tough ideas beautifully and honestly, and is both the funniest and saddest book I’ve ever read. The various antics Simon gets up to, plus Nathan’s witty voice, left me giddy with laughter; the ending left me weeping for half an hour straight. While underpinned by sadness, this book carries an uplifting spirit only a true storyteller can master. Hill, through Nathan’s voice, teaches us that life goes on, and embodies the story with a strong sense of hope. It’s an essential idea that’s often neglected in the YA genre, and one that is desperately needed in today’s world. Its strong ideas stay in the reader’s mind long after finishing the last page. This book also deserves praise for its brutal honesty: Hill holds nothing back when describing Simon’s disability, and is truthful without preaching. It’s a shame to see the under-representation of disabled people in society (and when they are being represented, it’s usually undermining or pitying), but See Ya, Simon perfectly handles it, while also showing that Simon is more than his disability. The balance between the funny moments and the serious ones is sublime, and it’s this perfect balance that’s left me re-reading this book many times.
From its superb plot to relatable characters, See Ya, Simon tackles its heavy themes with sophistication, humour, and style. You will be absorbed into the world of Nathan and Simon, and be taking their journey with them as you laugh and cry. I defy anyone not to love this book – its excellence deserves it to be made into a classic.
Hannah Marshall is 15 and from Wellington.