5.0 out of 5 stars
GREAT GAY TEEN NOVEL!, July 10 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. And I defy anyone not to be moved by the heart-pounding romance that builds between Russel and Kevin.
The quality of gay books with teenager protagonists is spotty. That said, Geography Club is EASILY one of the best gay teen book ever!