Simon Sort of Says

by Erin Bow (Author)

Reading Level: 6th − 7th Grade

For fans of Kate DiCamillo and Jack Gantos, a hilarious, wrenching, hopeful novel about finding your friends, healing your heart, and speaking your truth.

Simon O'Keeffe's biggest claim to fame should be the time his dad accidentally gave a squirrel a holy sacrament. Or maybe the alpaca disaster that went viral on YouTube. But the story the whole world wants to tell about Simon is the one he'd do anything to forget: the story in which he's the only kid in his class who survived a school shooting.

Two years after the infamous event, twelve-year-old Simon and his family move to the National Quiet Zone--the only place in America where the internet is banned. Instead of talking about Simon, the astronomers who flock to the area are busy listening for signs of life in space. And when Simon makes a friend who's determined to give the scientists what they're looking for, he'll finally have the chance to spin a new story for the world to tell.

From award-winning author Erin Bow, Simon Sort of Says is a breathtaking testament to the lasting echoes of trauma, the redemptive power of humor, and the courage it takes to move forward without forgetting the past.

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This title will be released on Sept. 3, 2024, midnight

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Adroit, sensitive, horrifying, yet hilarious. 

School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up--Facing trauma from the past is difficult, but this book handles it masterfully. Main character Simon is the only survivor from a shooting in his school classroom. He and his family have just moved to Grin and Bear It, NE--a National Quiet Zone town without internet, cell phones, or television. He hopes it will be the perfect place to find the "now" version of himself. While on his journey, Simon makes friends with Agate and Kevin. All three kids face different types of pressure and support one another as they seek out coping mechanisms and strategies. Simon's mother works as the town undertaker and his father works for the Catholic Church. It is a very rural environment, and a large part of the story is Simon and his friends experiencing birthing goats, being chased by emus or an attack peacock, training the sweetest service dog ever, and even faking an alien signal to the scientists managing a Large Radio Telescope. In the mix are an incompetent morgue assistant who is constantly losing bodies (or taking the wrong ones!) and a wild squirrel who ate the sacrament. Simon is a funny, lovable character who has lived through an unthinkable event. Simon is white, Kevin is Filipino American, and Agate is white and autistic. Funny and heartfelt in equal measure, this book tackles some tough topics, but the humor keeps readers engaged, and it is easy to care about these characters. VERDICT A solid purchase for all libraries that serve middle grade readers A solid purchase for all libraries that serve middle grade readers. It deftly handles the sensitive topic of being a young trauma survivor; warning for school shooting content.--Claire Covington

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Centering 12-year-old Simon O'Keefe's recent move to a completely off-the-grid town and told in his laugh-out-loud first-person perspective, Bow (Stand on the Sky) delivers a compassionate and refreshingly hopeful novel about a tween navigating the aftermath of a school shooting, which takes place before this book's start. Hoping to escape the anxiety-inducing notoriety they've been experiencing after the event, Simon and his family move to Grin and Bear It, Neb., where all electronic devices are banned. The devices, local scientists say, would interfere with their radio telescopes, which are listening for signals of extraterrestrial activity. Since no one can google him, Simon is optimistic that he can fly under the radar and put his past behind him. He makes fast friends with classmates Agate Van der Zwann, who is white and autistic, and half-white, half-Filipino Kevin Matapung; together, they set out to create false messages from aliens, using Kevin's family's contraband microwave to attempt to trick the scientists. Without detracting from Simon's uplifting emotional arc about making peace with his past and looking toward a brighter future with friends, Bow imbues this sincere story with levity by employing madcap plot points, including several animal-centered shenanigans featuring squirrels, dogs, and emus. Ages 8-12. Agent: Jane Putch, Eyebait Management. (Feb.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Blunt as trauma, delicate as healing, and hilarious and tragic as middle school can be—each piece of Simon Sort of Says snaps together like the most satisfying jigsaw puzzle. This book is as close to everything as one book can be.—Kyle Lukoff, Newbery Honor-winning author of Too Bright to See
Erin Bow
Erin Bow grew up wanting to be an astronomer, trained as a particle physicist . . . and then took a left turn into writing poetry and children's fiction. Her books--which include Stand on the Sky, Plain Kate, Sorrow's Knot, and the science fiction duology The Scorpion Rules and The Swan Riders--have won a fistful of awards, including a Newbery Honor. Born in Iowa and raised in Nebraska, Erin now writes in a shed in her messy but beloved garden in Ontario, Canada. Visit her online at and @ErinBowBooks.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
January 31, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV019000 - Juvenile Fiction | Humorous Stories
JUV039030 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Death & Dying
Library of Congress categories
School shootings
Psychic trauma
Interstellar communication

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