Title: The Order of the Poison Oak
Series: Russel Middlebrook #2
Author: Brent Hartinger
Published: March 1st 2005 by HarperTempest
Genre: YA Contemporary GLBTQI
Book 1: Geography Club
Summer camp is different from high school. Something about spending the night. Things happen.
Geography Club’s Russel Middlebrook is back, and he and his friends are off to work as counselors at a summer camp. Brent Hartinger’s third novel is the story of Indian legends, skinny-dipping in moonlit coves, and passionate summer romance. It’s also the story of Russel’s latest club, the Order of the Poison Oak, a secret society dedicated to helping its members see life’s hidden beauty and accept its sometimes painful sting.
The last book ends with this kid Bryan saving our hero, Russel Middlebrook, from being outted to his entire school. This book opens after Russel has decided to out himself anyway. And lo and behold, people are treating him badly.
To get away from it all, he and his two best friends, Gunnar and Min, sign up to be camp counselors for the summer. The first group of campers are burn survivors, and Russel’s cabin are 10 year old little monsters to boot.
One of the other counselors in particular catch Russel’s eye. Web is hotter than the sun and gives off mixed signals. Even worse, Min is also interested in him.
Then there is Otto, a burn survivor himself. The nice guy to Web’s bad boy. Another prominent new character is Em, a cool, geeky girl that Russel thinks would be great for Gunnar. Only Gunnar has sworn off girls because he only makes a fool of himself in front of them anyway. And he really, really does.
Overall, I liked this book a lot more than the first one. Russel can be very sweet, but he can also be remarkably stupid. I love the way he finally won his cabin of monsters over. Russel continues to break the fourth wall, which I found pretty irritating. That said, the writing is nice and light and the story amusing at times. The underlying message is handled a little heavy handed, but I’ve come to expect that from Mr. Hartinger.
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.