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Geography Club
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on March 10, 2014
Brent Hartinger's "Geography Club" is told by protagonist, Russell Middlebrook, a closeted gay teenager who is determined to keep his sexuality a secret from everyone. Like with any high school, status is important, and coming out of the closet was a surefire way to be at the bottom of the barrel. The jocks in the locker room are like a completely different species to him, and even his two best friends, Min and Gunmar, are kept in the dark about his attraction to boys.

It's a chance meeting that emerges from an anonymous online conversation that Russell discovers that Kevin Land, jock extraordinaire and Mr. Popular, is gay. It is this encounter that changes Russell's life, and what leads to the establishment of the geography club, which is really the ultra-secret club for Goodkind High School gay students. The five members include Russell and Kevin, Min and her secret girlfriend Therese, and Alex.

This story explores the importance of community, finding strength in your peers when you feel isolated from the rest of the world. It's definitely an experience many gay teens struggle with, debating the aftermath of coming out while trying to find someone else like them. And the members of the geography club coming from different "lands" (social groups and their respective levels of popularity) illustrates this struggle very well.

What I think is really capturing about this book is Russell's narrative voice. It provides the story with a very familiar style, and you're able to really get into the protagonist's mind. And it's more than just Russell navigating who he is as a young gay man, but as a teenager with friends. His moments with Gunmar are particularly illuminating, painting his friend as more than just the weird guy who can't get a girlfriend. Similarly for Min, you really get an idea of who she is through her interactions with Russell. So although Russell is the main character and the story is told from his perspective, the story isn't just about him.

It's about friendship, and bullying, and self-identity beyond sexuality.

If I had to make one complaint, it was that I wanted to see more of Kevin. I feel like Min and Gunmar really grow into characters in their own right, and wanted to see a little more dimension from Kevin. Although, that being said, I love the way we see Kevin through Russell's eyes, and how his feelings shape his behavior, because Russell's reactions ring very true for a high school student experiencing his first romance.

I would definitely recommend this book, and look forward to watching these characters grow as I read the other books in this series.
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on November 14, 2017
This is a fun, light read about the struggle of coming of age as a GLBT youth. I wish my high school had had a "Geography Club" like this one! I was in the closet all through high school. I thought I was the only one! This is "teen-YA," but I read its as an adult in my 40s and enjoyed it.
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on January 10, 2014
Now, I'm not saying it took me to all of the places I expected, but it did encourage me. I wish it had been much longer in order to take me to places that weren't covered. It was a little too light-hearted. There is some intensely serious stuff going on here, and I wonder if more avenues could have been explored. I fully understand the author's intent, that is, to target a teen audience, but there seems to be so many missed opportunities to expand the range of the story. As it stands, it is an extremely well written YA novel. But it could have been so much more. The "at a distance" aspect of the story left me wishing for real depth, but then it wouldn't have been suitable for the YA audience. It failed to push the limits of the genre, which wasn't absolutely necessary, but it definitely would have placed it in a whole better class of relevance to today's teen angst regarding outcasts. S. E. Hinton started this sub-genre of literature, but Brett Hartinger failed to continue it. I understand that a motion picture has been released, based on this novel. I hope the screenwriter manages to make the necessary changes in tone in order to make it have more impact.
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This was a really fast and easy read. It reminded me of a gay Mean Girls. I could see this done as a movie with voice overs and fantasy sequences. And it is happening! I hope they keep it to the early 2000s and don't make it modern. I want some music from a decade back! I will definitely watch this in theaters. There are also sequels that I will have to read!

I liked the progression of this book. I thought the main character of Russell went through some interesting changes and they were gradual and believable. I thought the high school environment was believable, although I don't think such bullying went on at my high school, at least not among my friends. I was a freshmen in high school when this book came out. I wish there would have been more pop culture references, but this book could have happened any time in the past 30 years, except any later than the early 2000s and cell phones would have been more prominent.

My favorite aspect of this book was Russ's inner dialogue. I loved being able to see why he did something. there were many actions he went though that wouldn't have had the same impact had I not have known his thought process. I also liked the way he would playfully refer to earlier in the book. I like when books casually break that fourth wall. It was like Russ was sitting there telling a story of his life to me.

This book is full of many characters, representing people of all different kinds. I really enjoyed how the Brian Bund storyline played out.

I give this novel a 4/5. It is a very easy, fast read. If you like coming-of-age high school stories involving the less than popular students, you will enjoy this book.
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on August 22, 2011
This is yet another of those Young Adult novels I was a little scared to read; in this case, for how shallow it could sound, it was also the cover that worried me, I had a "bad" feeling. And again I was wrong. Sure, Geography Club is not really about the romance, even if there is a teen romance in it, it's more about the growth of all the characters, but it's not a dramatic story, on the contrary, it has even a somewhat light and happy mood, like the reader is able to see that everything will be find for Russel and his friends.

Russel is a gay kid; for a kid living in a small town he is pretty smart, and even if he has never had any sexual experience, he lives his being gay in the net, attending chats where he is able to talk with other boys his same age and with his same trouble. But an online friend and a real friend are completely different, and it arrives a moment when Russel needs the physical presence of someone... yes, I think it was also arrived the moment when Russel wanted a boyfriend, but more than that he needed to feel he was not alone.

Russel jumps to the chance of meeting another teenager from one of the chats, and he is surprised, and pleased, when he finds out is Kevin, one of the most popular kids at school. But Russel is young, and yes, his best characteristic is that he is real, so no perfect at all; as soon as he finds out about Kevin, he wants to gossip with his friends, and so he talks with Min, his best girlfriend, and to his surprise Min comes out to him as bisexual, and then Min brings on Terese who brings on Ike... and an impromptu club is born.

As I said, no one of the above kids are heroes, and no one wants the burden of being the gay kid at school; they decide to misguide their gay club for a Geography Club, so boring no one will want to join. But after the first session when everyone was able to share their experience, they discover that being gay is not enough of a reason to be together, and their club to survive need to have a reason to be. Again, no much courage among these boys and girls, and surprise surprise, for once the hero of the novel, Russel, is not an hero at all, on the contrary he is actually the one who will behave in the worst way against another kid. That will be the moment for Russel to grow, to realize that being the cool kid and having a cool boyfriend is not actually possible in small town high school; he has to make a choice, and this is probably the most "dramatic" event of all the novel: as you can see, yes, for a 16 years old that can be pretty life changing decision, but it's not the end of the world.

I liked Russel, in good and bad he was who he was supposed to be: a teenager, with his trouble and his dreams, and with all the life in front of him to realize them.
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on October 2, 2017
I enjoyed this book. Simplistic, but that's what i usually expect in a young adult novel. It was the break I needed in between more serious reads. I recommend to people who want a mostly lighthearted read and like stories with gay characters. It isn't a disappointing or dumbed down book; it's a good, simple story.
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on February 24, 2013
High school student Russel Middlebrook is not out, but desperate for some honest conversation with other gay kids. After discovering that one of his good friends, Min, is bisexual, Russel suggests they form a club for gay kids at their school. But how do they make sure no one else will join the club? Thus is born the Geography Club, a club so boring-sounding that no one will want to join.

I found this novel a heartening story about honesty, friendship, and doing the right thing even when that means risking losing one's social status. This is not so much a coming out novel as it is a novel about how so many kids, gay and straight, are judged and misunderstood by their peers. I loved how Russel developed empathy for other kids in the story.

My only complaint with the story is the almost complete absence of adults in it. Teachers were props, parents were non-existent, and the teens seemed to live in a world in which they had complete autonomy.
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on July 26, 2013
Without having read other writings by Brent Hartinger, I reserve judgment on style. It definitely read like it was written from an average high school student, but how could I know if that was the intent or the author's own skill level? I found the plot and ending totally predictable; and found myself emotionally unengaged much, but not all of the time. I was not drawn in, with unbridled anticipation...

This was an easy read, and I would recommend it for the intended audience, but not for advanced readers, either in age or reading level. It does have some good moral messages, even if spelled out in detail. It seemed a bit dated with "IMed" vs. "texting". Even this old guy caught that.

So, if you have a gay teen or young adult, buy this for him or her; they will not be disappointed.

J.V. Petretta, author of "An Impossible Dream Story"
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on August 11, 2008
"Geography Club" is a quick read, but one with well-developed characters and a very interesting set-up. Through a revelation and brief series of very believable events, a small group of gays kids at an 800-student high school meet, without anyone else knowing. But they're from different cliques and being seen toegther in the cafeteria or the local pizza parlor or the park would make classmates wonder what the hell that odd collection is doing together. So they create a club so boring that no one else would join. And it works. So, too, does the book--until the last 20 pages or so. Things are wrapped up too fast and too neat. I imagine the "nice-and-neat" wrap-up is due in large part because this book is aimed at young adults (though it's a good read for all ages) and the author is the founder of a gay and lesbian support group for young people. So he wants to give kids hope. But a dose of reality would have been good to mix in with the nice-and-neat ending. (Though I was glad to see that one relationship did indeed end, so that the entire ending wasn't too clean.) It's a serious but enjoyable look at dealing with sexuality in high school. And the author presents very real situations giving characters very real predicaments to solve. While the choices they make throughout the book are so very real, unfortunately, the ultimate resolution of the story is a bit too much to be expected of the situations and teens in those situations. Still, I'll give this book three out of five stars and a recommendation. It's a very enjoyable read with very likable characters.
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on July 25, 2013
The Geography Club is the first book in the Russel Middlebrook Series by Brent Hartinger and sets the stage for what's to come. The story is engaging and well written making it a highly enjoyable read.

The author does an incredible job of capturing the timeless high school experience faced by teens of past and present making it simple to identify with the situations faced by the story's characters. Geography Club is a heartfelt reminder of just how tough life is for teens and even though they differ as individuals they are all simply seeking to fit in and be accepted for who they are.

I found Geography Club to be an encourage story of teens stepping outside their social boundaries and cleverly finding a way to be themselves. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Geography Club
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