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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Times are a Changing
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,...
Published on June 29 2004

versus
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 power. The characters are all interesting, though a few are a bit underdeveloped. I think terese and Ike got short shifted, and I would have liked to know more about them and what they were...
Published on March 16 2004 by Edward Aycock


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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
This review is from: Geography Club (Hardcover)
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 Amazon.com. 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). The gay characters in GEOGRAPHY CLUB are not stereotypes, they are typical high schools students who want the same thing that straight high school students want and if this book can help people see this wile providing an enjoyable read, it has more than accomplished something important as we strive toward understanding in today's world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too, Aug. 24 2007
This review is from: Geography Club (Paperback)
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 the locker room. He's never had an actual experience with another guy, though, so maybe the attraction he feels toward them is something he'll outgrow--or maybe not.

While surfing the Internet one night, he finds chat rooms for different towns and cities, where you can talk to other people who are also gay. And amazingly enough, there's a boy he meets with the name GayTeen-- who not only lives in his town, but also attends his high school. Another gay boy, in his very own school? There's no way that could be true-- especially when he finds out that the kid with the handle GayTeen is none other than Kevin Land, star of the baseball team, one of the most popular guys in school.

As Kevin and Russel get to know one another, outside of school and hidden away from prying eyes, they realize that there's no way for them to be together inside school walls. The same is true for Russel's friends Min and Terese, who although they claim to just be really close friends, are actually in love. So along with a few others, including Gunnar, who is straight, and Brian Bund, the loser of Goodkind High School, the boys form The Geography Club. After all, no one else is going to want to join such a boring club--especially if they knew it was just a front for a gay/ lesbian school group.

As events at school heat up, with Brian eventually being outed as gay even though he's not, Russel, Kevin, and their friends will have to learn what's most important in life. And that sometimes, no matter how much you might wish for things to be out in the open, you're just not ready.

GEOGRAPHY CLUB is a great, quick read from author Brent Hartinger, about the ups and downs of daily high school life, and the struggle to find ones identity.

Reviewed by: Jennifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius"
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5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT GAY TEEN NOVEL!, July 9 2004
This review is from: Geography Club (Hardcover)
"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!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Promising Debut Novel, June 4 2004
By 
Josh Aterovis (Baltimore, Maryland United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Geography Club (Hardcover)
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. I kept expecting his characters to act in the typical "after-school special" fashion for which the first part of the book seems to set them up. Much to my surprise (and pleasure) he doesn't take the easy way out. His characters feel real, and that means they don't always do the "right" thing. Hartinger's writing style, aimed specifically at young adults, is extremely accessible, and the book is a quick, but satisfying read. I think it's safe to say that we can expect more great things from Brent Hartinger, and I look forward to reading his newest release, the non-gay themed Last Chance Texaco.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A COMING -OF-AGE NOVEL WITH REAL BITE!, May 24 2004
By 
Jak Klinikowski "justjak13" (El Paso, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Geography Club (Hardcover)
Russell Middlebrook, a witty and remarkably frank high school sophomore is the narrator and protagonist of Brent Hartinger's, GEOGRAPHY CLUB. Russell's is a believably fresh and quirky voice, shining like a lighthouse beacon, in an ocean of gay coming out material. Quite possibly the most popular genre in "Gay Lit" today, the, "coming-of-age novel," dominates the Queer shelves. Unfortunately these offerings tend to be overly romanticized and just plain sappy. GEOGRAPHY CLUB is anything but. No, this is a book with real teeth and a sharp bite. This novel has more than its fair share of reality checks, yet humor and hope are never sacrificed to the standard teenage cynicism of the stories tone.
Russell is gay and firmly embedded in the closet. He's not one of the popular kids, but he's not a social pariah either. Along with his friends Min and Gunnar, Russell manages to stay within the "borderland of respectability," at Goodkind High School. Russell thinks he's the only gay person in school, so he only confesses his sexuality on the internet. One night he discovers another gay teen from his high school in a chat room and the two agree to meet. "GayTeen" turns out to be Kevin Land, a hunky jock and star of the baseball team. Russell is more than a little flabbergasted. After the initial shock wears off, the two boys agree to confide in one another about their mutual concerns. Russell, so excited he can barely contain himself, decides to risk all and tell his best friend Min about the rendezvous. Much to his surprise Min reveals her bisexual nature to him.
Before you know it, five gay teens (Min has a girlfriend and she's got a friend) are meeting for pizza and discovering that they are not alone, but how can they continue meeting without their secret being uncovered. They decide to form a school club so boring that no one will join, thus allowing them to meet on a twice weekly basis. The Geography Club is born. All goes swimmingly until a rumor about a gay teen sweeps the school, and the GC members start to get exceedingly nervous. Is the jig up for the closet club or will eyes be focused on Brian Bund, the schools number one outcast and overwhelming recipient of the worst kind of teasing teenagers are capable of?

Through the voice of Russell, Hartinger provides his readers with an amazingly accurate picture of what gay high school life is like today. Russell talks directly to us as if we were right there with him, shooting the breeze in the school cafeteria. He is cocky, unsure, comical, frightened and sincere, all at the same time. We get excited with him when he talks about his budding romance with Kevin, and how he joins the baseball team to be near him, and we hurt for him when fate plays an awful joke and his life is temporarily shattered. This is a kid's world and we're told about it by a gay kid. Adults play next to no role here. The story is thought provoking and wonderfully entertaining, proving the incredible highs and lows of adolescence stay unchanged from generation to generation.
I can not end this review without returning once more to the character of Brian Bund. Everyone who ever attended an American high school remembers a Brian or two. Those horribly mistreated outsiders who bore their lot with quiet dignity. Hartinger obviously remembered as well. His respectful portrait of this incredibly noble individual stands amongst the finest in contemporary gay fiction. I am unquestionably impressed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Moving Story, Classic Characters, & a Book That's All Heart, April 30 2004
This review is from: Geography Club (Paperback)
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 scapegoat Brian Bund upon whom all manner of dirty tricks and teenage cruelties are visited. Instead, Russel spends his time with Gunnar and Min, a guy and girl known for their brains, but who are also "occasional visitors to the border region of high school respectability" (p. 6). Russel is not eager to leave that border. Ever.
By a fluke Russel learns that another student is also gay, and he embarks upon that universally heady, intense journey where falling in love seems oh-so-right. He joins the baseball team to be with his boyfriend-even hits a home run-and suddenly he's living in the Land of the Popular. But he also meets some other kids who are gay and lonely. They have an inspiration to start a gay/lesbian support group, but in order to keep out those who would mock and exile them, they call it Geography Club. Unfortunately, the secret does not stay confidential, and the fallout is more than Russel thinks he can bear. Will he choose to take the coward's way out? Or can he stand up to the ignorant people all around?
With a light touch and a sense of humor, Hartinger tells a very serious story, one that is being played out in high schools across the country. With unerring accuracy, he depicts the isolation and fear first of one young man, then of a small group, and he reveals the courage and support it takes for any gay or lesbian high school student to stand up to the crowd. By the end of this novel, I had tears in my eyes. The story is moving, the characters are classic, and the discoveries Russel makes are ones that both high schoolers and adults should all learn. Highly recommended.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good YA novel, March 16 2004
By 
Edward Aycock (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Geography Club (Hardcover)
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 power. The characters are all interesting, though a few are a bit underdeveloped. I think terese and Ike got short shifted, and I would have liked to know more about them and what they were thinking. My only real problem with the story is that at the end of the book, the narrator takes too high of a road. I found it inconsistent that a character who was just coming out and had all the normal anxieties and hormones of a young guy would make such adult decisions about his relationship, etc. It does not ring true, and seems to have been in there to give him some noble bearing. It's a bit unnecessary as there was no real reason for the choice he makes. I think it was a poor one. This was a good reading experience and it took me back to high school and made me think, "If .." This book is an enoyable read for people of all stripes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another Spark of Hope for Gay and Lesbian Adolescents, Jan. 24 2004
By 
This review is from: Geography Club (Hardcover)
Geography Club is a wonderful, hopeful and non-offensive book for all kids and their families. It's the story of a group of very lonely kids in one school who decide to form a support group for gay and lesbian kids. Rather than label the group for what it is out of fear, the kids decided to call it The Geography Club. After all, what kid is going to have much interest in an after-school club supposedly studying maps of the world? There, in the privacy of a what they imagined would be considered a nerd club, the kids create a safe haven to discuss their identities.
Brent Hartinger does a laudable job of developing a story rich in unique an individual character. He does an excellent job in endeavoring to stress the importance of the individual student as opposed to the tried and less than true stereotypes that many hold of gay and lesbian people. The characters are quite delightful in their interactions and the scenarios that play out are quite believable.
Ultimately, Hartinger has developed a tremendously interesting social picture of all of the kids of groups that segment the average American high school.
Geography Club is a wonderful addition to the growing list of very hopeful books that have been emerging in support of gay and lesbian adolescents.
Kids who have different needs in schools often present the greatest challenge to our "one size fits all" model of education. Sadly, we have many kids with all kinds of different needs falling by the waysides of American Education.
As we appropriately stress the achievement of high academic standards in schools today, we cannot do so without also addressing the very human needs of many of the 'misfits" who don't feel very welcome in the very schools that expect them to demonstrate high academic achievement. I believe it's reasonable to assume we need to make kids safe and wanted before we can expect their best achievement. I hope that books like Hartinger's helps at least one kid feel a little more acceptable and understood.
High recommended.
Daniel J. Maloney
Saint Paul, Minnesota. U.S.A.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book, Sept. 16 2003
By 
H. Angelo (CT, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Geography Club (Hardcover)
Russel Middlebrook- High School student, nerdy, gay.
Kevin Land- High School student, popular, gay.
Min- Friend to Russel, nerdy, bisexual.
Gunnar- Friend to Min and Russel, straight.
Those are the some of the main characters in one of my new favorite books, Geography Club by Brent Hartinger. As you can see, there may be some slight conflicts between characters for various reasons.
Excerpt-
'I was deep behind enemy lines, in the very heart of the opposing camp. My advisaries were all around me. For the time being, my disguise was holding, but i still felt exposed, naked, as if my secret was obvious to anyone who took the time to look. I knew that any wrong action, however slight, could expose my deception, and reval my true identity. The thought made my skin prickle. The enemy would not take kindly to my infiltration of their ranks, especially not here, in their inner sanctum.
Then, Kevin Land leaned over the wooden bench behind my locker and said, "Yo Middlebrook, let me use your shampoo!"'
The entire book is in Russel's point of veiw, a very interesting one at that. I would reccomend this book to anyone, because it is interesting, well written and it is the perfect image of reality.
One would think books about teenage life would be depressing or sad, especially one dealing with bouts of your sexuality, but not this one, it is funny, upbeat and bound to make you smile. But it has a serious side too, toward the end of the story after everyone has grown and changed a bit.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Light and Breezy, Sept. 4 2003
This review is from: Geography Club (Hardcover)
Last night I started reading Geography Club by Brent Hartingberg which was actually really good and breezy to get through. It's about a gay high school student who finds other gay kids in school but they are all from different cliques so in order to not look suspicious when they get together to talk to each other, they form the GEOGRAPHY CLUB, because no high school student in their right mind would ever join a GEOGRAPHY CLUB. So it was their cover story as to why they hung out after school. It was a cute book, I laughed out loud a lot of times. I read just 60 pages last night, I went to bed and woke up and I finished the book in a little over 2 hours (but I'm a slow reader).
A favorite part of mine in the book is when the main character's best friend, Gunner who wants to date this girl. Sets Russle up with her friend, Trish, so Russle dates this girl he doesn't like for his friend, and when he goes to a diner with her, he notices other guys checking his date out. This was the funniest line in the book, "I didn't know what to do about that. Should I bear my teeth and growl?"
He finds love in the popular jock but the high school clique situation tests their relationship, yadda, yadda, yadda, which really isn't a big part of the book, to me.
It was a really good book, and like I said, it was breezy and easy to get though, worth your valuable time.
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Geography Club
Geography Club by Brent Hartinger (Hardcover - Feb. 20 2003)
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