3 of 3 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 Jun 29 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 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 Mar 16 2004 by Edward Aycock
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Times are a Changing,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too,
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"
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT GAY TEEN NOVEL!,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Promising Debut Novel,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars A COMING -OF-AGE NOVEL WITH REAL BITE!,
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?
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving Story, Classic Characters, & a Book That's All Heart,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Book,
By A Customer
This review is from: Geography Club (Hardcover)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 turner. It's hard to put this book down once you start. Highly recommended!
5.0 out of 5 stars The Right Thing to Do,
By A Customer
This review is from: Geography Club (Hardcover)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. It's also a very interesting story, centered around Russel, a secretly gay teen and how he meets other gay people. There is always the underlying question: "Is it better to be a nasty popular person, or an unpopular good person?" In the end Russel has to choose, because being himself won't make him popular.
3.0 out of 5 stars Good YA novel,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Story,
This review is from: Geography Club (Hardcover)I really enjoyed this book. The author created many memorable, distinct characters, both gay and straight. The main character was so likeable and real it made the book very involving. And the supporting characters also were well drawn.
I loved the many twists and turns of the plot. I never knew what was going to happen next, which made this novel almost impossible to put down.
This book made me think about love, homosexuality, peer pressure, friendship, and other interesting issues. But it didn't hit me over the head with them. Mostly, it told an exciting story, layered with deeper issues and insights.
This is not just a book for gay teens, by the way. I'm a heterosexual middle aged woman and I was completely engrossed by the story and the characters.
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Geography Club by Brent Hartinger (Hardcover - Feb 20 2003)
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