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Geography Club
Book
2003
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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. Russel is gay, and he knows he better keep it secret, or he'll be a total outcast in his small-town high school. But then he discovers that there are others like him--including Min, his longtime best friend, and her lesbian lover, as well as gorgeous, popular jock star Kevin. Seven of them form a support group (the "Geography Club" is their cover-up name), and for a short time, life is blissful. Russel has friends with whom he can be himself, and he also makes love with Kevin. Then things fall apart. Russel refuses to have sex with a girl, and word gets out that he's gay. Kevin can't come out, so he and Russel break up. Things are settled a little too neatly in the end, but there's no sermonizing. With honest talk of love and cruelty, friendship and betrayal, it's Russel's realistic, funny, contemporary narrative that makes this first novel special. The dialogue is right on; so is the high-school cafeteria; so is the prejudice. Booktalk this. --Hazel Rochman

  Kirkus Review

Much to his surprise (and relief), a closeted gay boy in high school discovers that he isn't the only homosexual teenager in his community. Russel Middlebrook, a sophomore at Goodkind High School, has a secret. Although he hasn't had physical sex yet, he knows in his heart that he's gay. News like that is tantamount to dynamite; socially it could blow him out of the "border region of high school respectability" he inhabits and into the land of the ostracized and set upon. Then Russel finds out that classmate Kevin Land, a handsome and popular star athlete, is a clandestine homosexual too. In a necessary but not very plausible plot twist, Russel confesses to his close female friend Min, who in turn admits to having a girlfriend. The teens desperately need to talk about their shared situation, so in an effort to find a safe haven and discourage other kids from coming around, they create the dullest after-school organization they can think of, the Geography Club. The group survives the addition of a straight girl with another kind of secret and Kevin and Russel's growing attachment, but its undoing comes when Min, knowing that they are only a whisper away from social ostracism themselves, fights to have Brian Bund, the "unquestioned outcast" of Goodkind, join their organization. Hartinger has to jiggle the plot to make it work, Russel's adventures in heterosexual dating feel forced and the conclusion strains credibility, yet overall the book is provocative, insightful, and in the end comforting. (Fiction. 12+)
Summary
Hartinger's debut novel is a fast-paced and funny 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 a typical American high school.
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