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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


*Geography Club

by Brent Hartinger

Reviewed May 25, 2003.
Harper Tempest, New York, 2003.  226 pages.

Geography Club is about feeling different, about social rejection and isolation in the vicious atmosphere of a modern high school.

When Russel Middlebrook finds out that he’s not the only gay person at his high school, his new friends want to get together without anyone learning their secret.  So they decide to form a club and give it the most boring name they can imagine.  That way, they don’t have to worry about anyone else joining.

One of his new friends is a star player on the baseball team, and Russel joins the team to be with him.  However, the popular jocks he now feels accepted by are the worst people in the school when it comes to tormenting Brian Bund, the school reject.  Besides that, he’s got a new challenge in keeping his big secret when his best friend begs him to go on some double dates, and it’s clear that Russel’s date wants sex.

Geography Club got a good review in Horn Book Magazine.  So I was curious about it.  I didn’t plan to review it, but somehow, that felt like Russel not wanting to be seen with Brian.  No, I don’t agree with the lifestyle choices presented in this book.  Aside from the issue of homosexuality, I think that God asks us to save sex for marriage because that’s the best thing for us.  I feel sorry for teens who don’t wait, because I honestly think their lives won’t be as happy in the long run.

However, this book is about much bigger themes than sexuality.  It’s about what it’s like to feel alone and isolated and then find friends.  But much more than that, it’s about choosing to do what’s right even at great cost to yourself.

Don’t think that the one star means that this book isn’t tremendously well-written.  It only means that I do have reservations about recommending it.  My reservations in this case are that this book is obviously not for everyone.  I would be hesitant to give it even to middle school students, but I do think that most high school students are mature enough to understand the deeper themes being illustrated here.

I firmly believe that reading is all about being able to see the world from different people’s perspectives, being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  You can’t get much more different from me than the character of Russel Middlebrook, and I think my life was enriched by seeing the world, for a couple of hundred pages, through his eyes.

Reviews of other books by Brent Hartinger:
Project Sweet Life
The Last Chance Texaco
Reader comment:  A reader gives this Five Stars, and says, "It's a very good book that talks about how a young boy's life is as a gay teenager."

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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