by Becky Albertalli Publication: April 7, 2015 Genre: Contemporary My rating: 4/5 stars Spoilers: None past the early plot setup
Contemporary fiction isn't a genre I often read or write (although I've edited a couple of really excellent contemporary novels recently). However, a majority of LGBT+ rep exists within the contemporary/literary sphere, so sometimes I branch out from my usual sci-fi/fantasy. I read Leah on the Offbeat before Simon vs., and I enjoyed its strong voice and—for lack of a better term—relatability enough that I picked up the previous book later that day.
For a book about a gay teenager being blackmailed over his sexuality, Simon vs. was surprisingly light; I'd even go so far as to say 'hilarious and heartwarming.' It offered a genuine and memorable slice of high-school life. I haven't been a high-schooler for nearly a decade, but I felt the author successfully blended modern slang, terminology, and teen struggles with the timeless limbo experience that is being sixteen. I read a Goodreads review that said something to the effect of "Becky Albertalli is one of the most observant writers in the YA game," and I agree, because this book didn't suffer from 'adult trying to sound like a teenager' syndrome at all.
I'm always torn over encouraging people to read books with minority representation since it can seem to imply that the books are worth reading because of the rep. Which isn't entirely untrue, but diminishes the importance of reading stories because you enjoy them and because they're good. But that in turn casts aspersions on the quality of (in this example) LGBT+ books in general, which isn't my intention at all. See the problem? This has been a long-winded way of saying that Simon vs. and Leah are both beautifully written and important to the queer community. I highly recommend reading them if you haven't already!
Simon and Nora's mom makes Oreo truffles (a.k.a. reindeer turds) every year on Christmas Eve. There are tons of other Oreo-based treats in the book (it's kind of a thing) but I really, really didn't want to deep fry sandwich cookies or make Oreo milk. The idea of Oreo milk kind of weirds me out—I'm not a fan of chunks in my drinks—but milk tea with Oreo bits is a thing, so maybe Oreo milk can be too!
For the Oreo truffles, I combined a standard chocolate truffle base with this recipe by Amy in the Kitchen. You could certainly make the truffles as a mix of cream cheese and crushed Oreos dipped in chocolate, but I wanted to avert some of the chalky texture by adding some dark chocolate. You could also dip these in white chocolate/almond bark/white candy coating for a more 'finished' look, but I was going for the snowy effect of powdered sugar!
(Part of this recipe is by weight rather than volume because that's how I remember the basic truffle ratio. If you'd like me to convert it to cups, shoot me a message!)
130g dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
100g heavy cream
12g light corn syrup
20 Oreo sandwich cookies (a gluten-free alternative will work fine if you need to substitute)
4 oz cream cheese, softened
powdered sugar, for dusting
Place chopped chocolate in heatproof bowl. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat heavy cream and corn syrup just until the mixture begins to bubble, then pour over the chocolate. Allow to sit for five minutes without stirring so chocolate can melt. After five minutes, stir until the mixture is a uniformly thick liquid. Cut butter into cubes and stir until fully incorporated. Set aside.
Crush sandwich cookies (I used a food processor, but a zip-top bag and a rolling pin will do the trick too) and stir into softened cream cheese until no cream cheese remains visible. Scrape the Oreo-cream cheese mixture into the chocolate-cream mixture and stir until uniform.
Refrigerate for about an hour, stirring once at the halfway point so the mixture won't be cold and hard on the edges and warm and gloopy in the middle. Using a spoon or small cookie scoop, portion the truffle mixture into tablespoon-sized blobs on a baking sheet. Freeze for an hour.
Remove tray from the freezer. Using your hands, roll each roughly scooped truffle into a smooth ball. If the truffles start sticking to your hands or melting, put them back in the freezer to firm up. Washing your hands periodically while rolling the truffles can help form a smooth surface on each truffle.
To serve, roll or dust truffles with powdered sugar and allow to come to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator.