PART ONE: SIMON SAYS
Chapters One & Two
Summary: Chapter One
On Monday, September 24th at 2:55 p.m., Simon Kelleher catches Bronwyn Rojas looking at the About That app. Simon uses the app to publish gossip about classmates at Bayview High School—and to expose their lies and secrets. Bronwyn and Simon enter a classroom where three other students are already present: Nate Macauley, Cooper Clay, and Addy Prentiss. Bronwyn, Addy and Cooper insist to Mr. Avery, the science teacher who has given them all detention, that the phones he confiscated that morning weren’t theirs. Bronwyn takes out her actual phone as proof. Simon suggests that they were all framed. (All the students except for Nate have clean records.) Ignoring their pleas, Mr. Avery confiscates Bronwyn’s phone, explaining that he will return the phones after detention.
Just after 3:05 p.m., Simon complains that his water bottle is missing. When Mr. Avery tells him to get some water from a sink, Simon asks Nate, in passing, if he set them up to be caught with the decoy phones. Before Nate can finish replying, the group is startled by sounds of a car crash outside the building. Nate goes to the window, followed by Mr. Avery, Bronwyn, Addy, and finally Simon. Mr. Avery goes outside to check on the scene, leaving Bronwyn in charge.
Simon starts teasing the group about their social roles: Addy is a homecoming princess, Cooper a jock, Bronwyn a brain, and Nate a criminal. In a threatening tone that makes Bronwyn uneasy, Simon calls himself the omniscient narrator. After remarking that the water tastes bad, Simon suddenly falls to the floor. Recognizing that Simon is having an allergic reaction, Nate tells the group to look for an EpiPen. Bronwyn leaves to find a teacher, grabbing her phone from Mr. Avery’s desk. When they can’t find Simon’s EpiPen, Nate tells Cooper to get one from the nurse’s office. There, another teacher, Ms. Grayson, helps Copper look, but they are unsuccessful. Cooper returns to the classroom as the paramedics arrive.
Summary: Chapter Two
Cooper helps Addy, who is badly upset, call her boyfriend, Jake, to come pick her up. Ms. Grayson gives everyone permission to leave. Addy is grateful for Cooper’s strong presence, and when Addy sees Jake, she is relieved. Addy is ashamed that she did not handle the situation as well as Nate. As Jake comforts Addy, she worries what will happen when he stops seeing the best in her.
The parking lot is empty when Nate and Bronwyn leave the school building at 4 p.m. Nate has known Bronwyn since kindergarten and feels comforted by her familiar presence. When he offers her a ride on his motorcycle, she lectures him about safety, but when he offers her alcohol from his flask, she accepts. The pair discuss what just happened. Nate finds Bronwyn tiring, but not boring. Bronwyn tells Nate she’s sorry about his mother, whose death Bronwyn learned of a year earlier but had not brought up with Nate. Bronwyn lets Nate take her home. Just as they arrive at Bronwyn’s house, her phone rings: Simon is dead.
Analysis: Chapters One & Two
Chapter One introduces a prominent theme in the novel: the use of fear as a means of control. The students of Bayview High are typical modern teenagers obsessed with gossip and social media. They are attempting to navigate the world and figure out who they are, and each one has vulnerabilities they attempt to keep hidden. As the antagonist, Simon preys on their weaknesses and uses fear of exposure to keep them in a constant state of fragility and vulnerability. He uses his About That app as a weapon to not only cause stress, pain, and humiliation, but also to reinforce his position of power as the omniscient narrator of their lives. His fellow students’ constant fear and uneasiness gives him pleasure and creates a dark, tense atmosphere in which he can thrive. Though the students are repelled by the vicious nature of his gossip, as well as its lasting presence in a published format, they are also drawn to it in realizing that Simon only tells the truth. His revelations are both fearsome and alluring. Though they hate the app, they have all downloaded it onto their phones. Simon’s warning about his next post serves to keep his classmates in fearful suspense as they wait for him to reveal their indiscretions.
These opening chapters also establish the enforcement of stereotypes. In detention, Simon reminds each of his fellow classmates of the labels they wear, and each acts accordingly in these early scenes. As an academic overachiever, Bronwyn is “ the brain.” Her actions in this scene are successful as she retrieves her phone and calls for help. As star athlete and homecoming king, Cooper, “the jock,” reinforces his stereotype by sticking close to Addy, a member of his inner circle, and by stumbling in the face of off-the-field pressure. Addy, “the princess,” is weepy and useless during the tragedy. Her reliance on Cooper and desperate need for Jake paint her as a one-dimensional beauty with nothing else to offer. Nate, “the criminal,” is mostly cool-headed in the chaos of Simon’s allergic reaction, but he ultimately fails in his attempts to save Simon’s life. Here, each character has stayed within the confines of their enforced stereotype. However, after Simon’s death, Bronwyn’s acceptance of Nate’s bourbon and motorcycle ride suggest that the confines of their stereotypes can be broken and that perhaps Simon’s absence will make these breakthroughs possible.