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Geography Club [Hardcover]

Brent Hartinger
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 20 2003

Russel Middlebrook is convinced he's the only gay kid at Goodkind High School. Then his online gay-chat buddy turns out to be none other than Kevin, the popular but closeted star of the school's baseball team. Soon Russel meets other gay students too. There's his best friend, Min, who reveals that she's bisexual, and her soccer-playing girlfriend, Terese. And there's Terese's politically active friend, Ike.

But how can kids this diverse get together without drawing attention to themselves?

"We just choose a club that's so boring, nobody in their right mind would ever in a million years join it. We could call it Geography Club!"

Brent Hartinger's debut novel is a fastpaced, funny, and trenchant portrait of contemporary teenagers who may not learn any actual geography in their latest school club, but who learn plenty about the treacherous social terrain of a typical American high school and the even more dangerous landscape of the human heart.

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Product Description

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up-Russel Middlebrook is a sophomore at Goodkind High School. He has a secret crush on a baseball jock, Kevin Land, and soon discovers that Kevin is also gay. The boys become friendly outside of school and set up the "Geography Club" with three other gay students, one of whom is Russel's closest friend, Min. The club members relish the opportunity to discuss their lives and to relate to one another openly and honestly. Eventually, however, intense peer pressure and insecurity take their toll. Russel's relationship with Kevin ends, but the "Geography Club" becomes the "Goodkind High School Gay-Straight-Bisexual Alliance," and the protagonist gains new insight into himself and his place in the world. Hartinger has written a compelling look at the high school scene and the serious consequences of being "different." The plot never falters. Dialogue flows smoothly and is always completely believable, and the occasional use of profanity adds to the realism of the story. Characterization is excellent, with all of the teens emerging as likable but flawed individuals caught in a situation that few young adults could handle with maturity. This author has something to say here, and his message is potent and effective in its delivery. Many teens, both gay and straight, should find this novel intriguing.
Robert Gray, East Central Regional Library, Cambridge, MN
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Gr. 7-12. Russel is gay, and he knows he better keep it secret, or he'll be a total outcast in his small-town high school. But then he discovers that there are others like him--including Min, his longtime best friend, and her lesbian lover, as well as gorgeous, popular jock star Kevin. Seven of them form a support group (the "Geography Club" is their cover-up name), and for a short time, life is blissful. Russel has friends with whom he can be himself, and he also makes love with Kevin. Then things fall apart. Russel refuses to have sex with a girl, and word gets out that he's gay. Kevin can't come out, so he and Russel break up. Things are settled a little too neatly in the end, but there's no sermonizing. With honest talk of love and cruelty, friendship and betrayal, it's Russel's realistic, funny, contemporary narrative that makes this first novel special. The dialogue is right on; so is the high-school cafeteria; so is the prejudice. Booktalk this. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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I WAS DEEP BEHIND ENEMY LINES, in the very heart of the opposing camp. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Times are a Changing June 29 2004
By A Customer
A few years ago when I went to vote at my old high school, The GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) was holding a bake sale outside the polling area. "Times have changed" was my immediate thought, knowing that when I attended school there, a GSA would never have even dared to exist. The fact that a book such as GEOGRAPHY CLUB could be published and not be all that controversial, at least in this neck of the woods, confirms that times have changed.
It is a first person narrative about a high school student named Kevin who knows he is gay. While he is not celebrating his sexual preference, he is not loathing it either. He discovers there are other gay students in his school and they devise a way to meet: by forming a club no one will want to join, a geography club (hence the title). There are many ups and downs for the people involved, and lessons to be learned, but sharing them would probably ruin the story.
Reviewers in print have both praised and panned the book, as have reviewers on The book is an easy and enjoyable read though it will probably not stand the test of time as an all time classic for young people, but it does serve an important purpose. As I wondered what merits the book has, my first thought turned to gay readers. Will gay readers find characters they can identify with in this book? Perhaps. Since the characters are likeable but flawed, this is a possibility, but it could also be viewed as a bit superficial. Yet as I thought more about it, I realized that the book does make a significant contribution to adolescent literature. Readers are used to gay characters who are self depreciating outcasts who are the constant targets of bullies. None are members of the drama club either (though one does love Disney musicals).
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5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT GAY TEEN NOVEL! July 9 2004
"I was deep behind enemy lines, in the very heart of the enemy camp." So begins the story of Russel, the teenage protagonist of the new novel, Geography Club. This is no spy novel, and Russel isn't talking about espionage, but he is in a situation that's almost as dangerous: he's gay and naked in the locker room after high school P.E.
At age sixteen, Russel has finally had it with lurking around in the periphery of life. Desperate to make contact with other gay kids, he hooks up with an online gay chat buddy--who turns out to be none other than baseball jock Kevin Land. Before long, Russel and Kevin ferret out other local gay kids as well, including Russel's friend Min, who reveals she's bisexual, and Min's soccer-playing girlfriend, Terese.

Problem is, they're not yet ready to tell the rest of the school they're gay. So how do kids this diverse spend time together without calling attention to themselves? Russel's--and Hartinger's--answer is as ingenious as it is witty: they form an after-school club that sounds so boring no one else would ever think to join--the Geography Club. But, of course, this being high school, things are never as simple as they seem. Soon Russel and his friends are learning plenty about geography after all--specifically, the clique-conscious landscape of a typical American high school.

This novel comes as a welcome relief from the overwrought, humorless gay teen novels of the past. The book is funny, especially when Russel tries to avoid the charms of an overly persistent female admirer ("Her tongue was like a raw oyster with a mind of its own!").

But this is also a novel with heart, particularly when the gay kids eventually clash over the question of whether or not to reach out to the school outcast who is rumored to be gay.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Promising Debut Novel June 4 2004
With his debut novel, Geography Club, Brent Hartinger has created a sharp, witty, and touchingly realistic look into the lives of modern gay high school students. Russel has never knowingly met another gay person in his small town. He firmly believes he's the only gay kid at his high school, and in fact, feels like he's a spy in enemy territory. When he stumbles across a gay chat room set up just for his town, he's shocked to meet another gay student from his school. They agree to meet and much to Russ' surprise, the other gay student is none other than Kevin, a popular jock.
That information is just too much to keep to himself so he risks coming out to Min, his best friend. Min shocks him making a confession of her own: she has a girlfriend, soccer-playing Terese. The four of them, along with Terese's activist friend Ike, decide to get together to talk about all they have in common. But where? There's seems to be no safe place that jocks, activists, and self-described intellectuals can meet together without drawing suspicion in the clique obsessed society of high school. That's when they come up with the idea to form the Geography Club. "We just choose a club that's so boring, nobody in their right mind would ever in a million years join it."
The idea works at first, but when another student suddenly, and rather inexplicably, wants to join, things start to unravel. Things are further complicated by Russ' rocket-fast trip from the respectable edges of society to popularity. He suddenly finds himself faced with decisions and situations he's never imagined for himself. Will he make the right choices? What will he do to hang on to his newfound status?
Hartinger tackles the difficult and treacherous landscape of high school society with startling realism.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Amazing
This book was amazing. I had to do a project in class about social justice, and my teacher gave me a list of books. I knew this was the right book. Recommend you to read it! Read more
Published 10 months ago by Eddy
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing read
Some of the LGBT/Gay books I have read lately have such a poor storyline. This read is much more interesting.
Published 13 months ago by L. D.
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too
Russel Middlebrook is pretty sure that he's gay. After all, he's not attracted to girls, and he spends every day after gym class studiously avoiding the other half-naked guys in... Read more
Published on Aug. 24 2007 by TeensReadToo
1.0 out of 5 stars What is this? Fanfic?
The reason I ask the question in the title is because this book has so much melodrama and unrealistic characterizations that it would fit snugly into the annals of bad fanfiction... Read more
Published on June 23 2004
Russell Middlebrook, a witty and remarkably frank high school sophomore is the narrator and protagonist of Brent Hartinger's, GEOGRAPHY CLUB. Read more
Published on May 24 2004 by Jak Klinikowski
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving Story, Classic Characters, & a Book That's All Heart
Russel Middlebrook is a 16 year old high school sophomore hiding a big secret: he's gay. He keeps a low profile because he doesn't want to be treated like the school outcast and... Read more
Published on April 30 2004 by Lori L. Lake
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Book
This book captures all the feelings and emotions and fears that go with growing up gay in a high school setting - brilliantly depicted and wonderfully written - a definite page... Read more
Published on April 21 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars The Right Thing to Do
This book was truly fantastic. There are very few adult characters in it, just teenagers. "The Geography Club" discusses all sorts of issues, from popularity to homophobia. Read more
Published on March 23 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Good YA novel
As an adult, I found this a swell read. I am glad that there are more and more books like this available that don't focus on sex as much as they do self-awareness and coming to... Read more
Published on March 16 2004 by Edward Aycock
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Story
I really enjoyed this book. The author created many memorable, distinct characters, both gay and straight. Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2004 by Debra Garfinkle
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