Review: Geography Club by Brent Hartinger

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger

Title: Geography Club
Series: Russel Middlebrook #1
Author: Brent Hartinger
Published: February 17th 2004 by HarperTeen
Genre: YA Contemporary LGBTQI

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Russel Middlebrook is convinced he’s the only gay kid at Goodkind High School.

Then his online gay chat buddy turns out to be none other than Kevin, the popular but closeted star of the school’s baseball team. Soon Russel meets other gay students, too. There’s his best friend Min, who reveals that she is bisexual, and her soccer-playing girlfriend Terese. Then there’s Terese’s politically active friend, Ike.

But how can kids this diverse get together without drawing attention to themselves?

“We just choose a club that’s so boring, nobody in their right mind would ever in a million years join it. We could call it Geography Club!”

Brent Hartinger’s debut novel is a fast-paced, funny, and trenchant portrait of contemporary teenagers who may not learn any actual geography in their latest club, but who learn plenty about the treacherous social terrain of high school and the even more dangerous landscape of the human heart.

I have been meaning to read this book for years, but somehow never got around to it. Perhaps my as yet undiscovered sixth sense knew I was going to find it preachy and kind of depressing. Which I did.

Geography Club is one of the classics of the GLBTQI YA genre. For a reason, all the issues raised in the book are very valid, and they are still valid now, 10 years after its release. I will admit, I don’t much care for the other “classics” either.

Which is not to say I didn’t like it. I did, for the most part. I just don’t like to be made to feel all the feels, okay? This book is kind of heartbreaking. It’s about find friendship in unlikely places, about being yourself, about not judging a book by its cover, and about the pain of having your delusions stripped away.

Russel Middlebrook has never told anyone that he’s gay. Until he enters a gay chatroom and finds someone from his very own school. He’s not alone! Not only that, the other person is the super hot baseball star whose crotch Russel tries not to stare at in the locker-room.

Soon he discovers that there are even more gay kids at Goodkind High School than he ever imagined. Hell, one of his best friends, Min, is bisexual and has been secretly dating a girl for three years.

The gay kids band together and start the Geography Club, a place where they can be themselves for a few hours a week. Only, there is another student at the school who has the same idea, and that sets off nasty rumors about who the gay kid may be. And of course, when no evidence can be found, all fingers point to the sad, loner kid no one likes anyway. Insert copious amounts of bullying.

Overall, I liked the characters. Russel was engaging. Brian the sad, loner kid was unexpectedly amazing and wise beyond his years. Min was badass and kind of awesome.

This was an amazingly easy read. I blew through it in a single sitting. Well, lies, two sittings, I did stop to watch Survivor in the middle.

There’s a movie based on this book coming out later this year. Though from the trailer it looks to be very loosely based. Will I see that? Probably. Will I read the rest of the books in this series? Yeah. Will it make me do more sadface? I sure as shit hope not.


Brent Hartinger is the author of a number of novels, mostly for and about teens, including Geography Club (HarperCollins, 2003) and three sequels: The Order of the Poison Oak (HarperCollins, 2005); Double Feature: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies (HarperCollins, 2007); and The Elephant of Surprise (2013).

His other books include The Last Chance Texaco (HarperCollins, 2004); Grand & Humble (HarperCollins, January 2006); Project Sweet Life (HarperCollins, 2008); and Shadow Walkers (Flux Books, 2011).

Mr. Hartinger’s many writing honors include being named the winner of the Lambda Literary Award, the Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award, a GLAAD Media Award, and a Book Sense Pick (four times).

A feature film version of his first novel, Geography Club, will be released in 2013, starring Scott Bakula 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 Tacoma, Salt Lake City, Edmonton, and elsewhere. A feature film version of his play The Starfish Scream, which has also received many regional productions (and was twice produced Off-Off Broadway in New York), is in active development for a possible 2014 release.

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