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Geography Club Paperback – February 17, 2004

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Geography Club + The Order of the Poison Oak (The Russel Middlebrook Series) (Volume 2) + The Elephant of Surprise (The Russel Middlebrook Series) (Volume 4)
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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; Reprint edition (February 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780060012236
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060012236
  • ASIN: 0060012234
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #173,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am Brent Hartinger, and I live to write.

For the last twenty years, I have made my living writing just about everything that involves words.

My latest project is a trilogy of "new adult" novels called Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years. They're about a gay guy in his twenties, Russel Middlebrook, trying to make sense out of love and life.

The books in Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years are:

* The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know (book #1)
* Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams (book #2)
* The Road to Amazing (book #3)

I wrote previously about this character in a young adult series called the Russel Middlebrook Series. The first book in that series, my 2003 gay teen novel Geography Club, was adapted as a feature film in 2013, starring Scott Bakula, Marin Hinkle, Ana Gasteyer, Justin Deeley, and Nikki Blonsky.

In order, the books in The Russel Middlebrook Series are:

* Geography Club (book #1)
* The Order of the Poison Oak (book #2)
* Double Feature: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies (book #3)
* The Elephant of Surprise (book #4)
* Two Thousand Pounds Per Square Inch (a free short story)

For the record, I try hard to write books that people *like* to read. The most frequent comment I get from readers is that my books are "page-turners," which makes me very happy, because that is exactly what I want them to be. If I had to describe my own books, I would say, "Strong central concept, strong plot, strong character and voice, and usually lots of humor." (I may not always succeed in creating these things, but they're what I always strive for.)

My biggest complaint with books I hate is that they don't get to the point (or, worse, they don't have a point!). I get frustrated that so many books have a cliche or overdone central concept, or that they're all atmosphere and world-building (or "beautiful language," in the case of some literary novels) with no real story.

Basically, I see myself as a storyteller. I think the important thing for a writer is to get out of the way and just tell the damn story.

My second great love is screenwriting and playwriting. I've won lots of screenwriting awards and have several movie projects in very active development.

Meanwhile, my plays have been performed at dozens of theaters. And I adapted Geography Club into a stage play, which has now been produced all over the country.

In addition, I'm the co-host of a bi-weekly podcast, Media Carnivores, which covers media-related news and opinion (and also honest writing advice and updates on my career).

I sometimes teach writing, in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College and elsewhere, and I'm sometimes available as an editor-for-hire.

And I also do a fair bit of charity work, including a brand new enterprise, The Real Story Safe Sex Project, using entertainment and pop culture to help gay teens and twentysomethings fight HIV/AIDS.

I live in Seattle, Washington, with my partner since 1992, Michael Jensen. Michael is also a writer, the author of two terrific gay westerns, Frontiers, and its sequel, Firelands. Together with our friend Sarah Warn, we co-founded a very successful entertainment website called that was eventually acquired by MTV/Logo (but we don't work there anymore).

I answer all emails, so feel free to contact me through my website:

My "Official" Biography:

BRENT HARTINGER is the author of many novels, including Geography Club (2003) and six companion books: The Order of the Poison Oak (2005); Double Feature: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies (2007); The Elephant of Surprise (2013); The Thing I Didn't Know I Didn't Know (2014); Barefoot in the City of Broken Dreams (2015), and The Road to Amazing (2016)

His other books include The Last Chance Texaco (2004); Grand & Humble (2006); Project Sweet Life (2008); and Three Truths and a Lie (Simon & Schuster, 2016).

A feature film version of his first novel, Geography Club, was released in November 2013, co-starring Scott Bakula, Ana Gasteyer, and Nikki Blonsky.

Hartinger is also the author of many award-winning screenplays and plays, including a stage adaptation of Geography Club, which has received regional productions in Salt Lake City, Edmonton, and many other places. Three more of his screen projects have been optioned for film and are in various stages of development, including his screenplay of his award-winning play The Starfish Scream.

Mr. Hartinger's many writing honors include being named the winner of the Lambda Literary Award; a GLAAD Media Award; the Scandiuzzi Children's Book Award; and a Book Sense Pick (four times). Screenwriting awards include the Screenwriting in the Sun Award, a Writers Network Fellowship, and first place in the StoryPros, Fresh Voices, Acclaim, and L.A. Comedy Festival screenwriting contests.

Hartinger is the co-host of the Media Carnivores podcast, a sometime-member of the faculty at Vermont College in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and the co-founder of the entertainment website, which was sold to MTV/Viacom in 2006. In 1990, he co-founded one of the country's first gay youth support groups, in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington. He also founded and currently runs the Real Story Safe Sex Project.

He lives in Seattle with his partner, writer Michael Jensen.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Joseph J. Hanssen on March 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is geared toward young adults (high school age), but I feel it's a book all ages can enjoy and benefit from, especially parents who want to better understand their gay son or daughter, and the difficulties they face while in high school.

Russel is convinced he's the only gay student at GoodKind High until his online gay-chat buddy turns out to be another student, Kevin, who is the popular closeted star baseball player of the school. Soon Russel learns his best female friend, Min, and her girlfriend, Therese, and another student called Ike, are also gay. They now have to figure out how they can all get together for talks without drawing attention to themselves. This leads them to form a club called "Geography Club". Is the "Geography Club" the answer to their problems, or will peer pressure, insecurities, unexpected members and other events, take a toll on their developing friendship, and their new club.
Hartinger has written a very realistic, fast-paced story filled with love, hope, humor, and sadness that will touch anyone's heart. These young students are individuals who are mature beyond their years. The author has done a brilliant job in getting his message across by developing characters that are very believable. We need more sensitive, intelligent writing like this that can help all young people deal with being different, especially at a time when there are so many other pressures for them to bear. It's rough to be young in today's world. This is a book I recommend for all. Please don't miss this one!
Joe Hanssen
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By alejander on July 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am a 17 year gay guy from ohio and let me say, this is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I felt and feel like I AM the character of Russell in the book, I've gone through so many of the things he has. I even cried after reading the sequel after this one because it made me look at my own situation and how hard it is to be gay and love someone who might never talk to you again if they knew. I feel like this book deserves several awards, it certainly had a touch to me.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Lori L. Lake on April 30, 2004
Format: 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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Format: Paperback
In the conservative, oppressive town of Goodkind, Russel Middlebrook faces his biggest fear--publicly coming out--as he slowly discovers there are others at his own school, stubbornly questioning and reconciling with their sexualities, just like he is. In this town and in this decade, gay-straight alliances are unheard of--scorned, even--but upon kindling a brotherhood with the diverse group of people who are so different from him, and yet so similar, he learns that sometimes being yourself, no matter how hard, is more important than any reputation, any sort of acceptance, and any lie he'd be living otherwise.

I was so impressed by this children's LGBT novel both because of the controversial topic it daringly confronts, and by the strength and grace with which it is written. Russel's realistic first-person narrative--one of the pioneering gay narrations in YA fiction--is a pleasure to read and captures the horrors and injustices of the high school social scene penetratingly, but in an appropriate, parent-approved fashion. I loved him as a character as well; he's so awkward, nice, and hilarious in an adorable teenage boy way. We need more gay narrators for YA!

I also adore Russel's best friends, Min and Gunnar, because they aren't portrayed as the typical "he's been my BFFL and always has my back no matter what" crap. They're so flawed--so flavored--and that makes them so, so real.

This book is touching, frightening, and compelling in all the right paces. It accurately conveys the fear of learning to cross and even break the invisible, vicious barriers within the high school social ladder, but not explicitly; it leaves just enough to the imagination, which is why I wholeheartedly recommend it to the younger crowd, too.
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