Just finished reading Brent Hartinger’s Geography Club and must say that I enjoyed it immensely. Hartinger’s newest novel in the Geography Club series, Split Screen: Attack of the Soul Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies (HarperCollins, 2007) recently won a Lambda for bisexual fiction. I’ve been wanting to read it, but thought I should start at the beginning -- that said, I’ve been skimming Split Screen and it seems to stand up pretty well on its own.
Geography Club is mostly about Russel Middlebrook, a high school sophomore with a terrible crush on Kevin Land, a popular jock. Russel's pretty sure he’s the only gay kid in his high school ... and then discovers that is not the case at all. He and several other teens (including his bisexual friend, Min) form a support group called the “Geography Club” (a club so boringly titled that surely no-one else would join) and Rusel’s life is pretty good until it suddenly goes spectacularly pear-shaped.
Happily, being gay is not an issue in this novel -- the characters do not spend time railing at the universe for afflicting them with the dread Gayness. No, the big issue is how everyone else will react when their secret is out (and, honestly, this is much more an issue for some characters than for others).
I appreciate of the novel’s realism -- teenagers can be cruel selfish beasts and Hartinger doesn’t gloss over that. Usually well-intentioned characters do make some terrible choices, because they want to conform. The underdog does not become Mr. Popular. There is no storybook ending for any of our happy couples. But there is also enough humor and true friendship in this novel to give readers hope for better things to come.
“It’s true, you know,” I said.
“What?” he said. He got some points for wiping away a tear.
“That I’m gay.”
Gunnar rolled his eyes. “I know that.”
“What? How long have you known?”
“Oh, maybe, five years.”
“What?” I could hardly believe my ears.
“Well, I’m not a complete idiot!” Gunnar said. “I mean, it’s kind of obvious. Animated Disney musicals?”
“And do you care?”
“What?” he said. “That you’re gay?” I nodded, and he said indignantly, “If I cared, would I be standing here with a juniper bush up my ass?”
I look forward to reading The Order of the Poison Oak (HarperCollins, 2006) just as soon as the interlibrary-loan fairy brings it to me.
Geography Club by Brent Hartinger(HarperCollins, 2003)