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Review: “Geography Club” by Brent Hartinger

November 4, 2013

geography clubRussel Middlebrook is fairly certain he is the only gay kid at his high school. Even though he has friends, he still feels very much alone since he is keeping such a big secret from everyone. One night, while looking for support online, everything changes for Russel. He runs across another gay teen that not only lives in his town, but attends his high school. They decide to reveal their identities and meet that night. The mysterious online screen name belongs to someone he least expects to be gay too.

After this meeting, Russel begins to share his secret with a few friends. He finds acceptance within a small group and they decide to form a gay-straight alliance club. Still testing the waters and afraid to come out all the way, the members decide to keep the true purpose of the club undercover. They name it “Geography Club” assuming no one else will want to join. The alliance consists of unlikely friends trying to support one another through the scary obstacles of self- acceptance and their high school’s popularity hierarchy.

Throughout the novel, “Geography Club” by Brent Hartinger, friendships and loyalty are tested, tough decisions are made, and each character deals with their struggles in different ways. In the end, Russel has to make a choice. Does he choose to hang on to his newfound popularity and secret boyfriend? Or does he risk everything by being honest to himself and others?

You read the story through Russel’s point-of-view which is realistic and full of wit. While some of the characters remain rather two-dimensional, the novel has a firm grasp on the ups-and-downs of finding your place when you feel different than everyone else. This is a hopeful and honest book for anyone who is trying to find belonging. Even if it doesn’t end the way Russel may have chosen at the time, I imagine his adult-self would look back and be proud of the person he was becoming in this novel.

Join the Missouri GSA Network in a St. Louis premier screening of the new film, “Geography Club” on Sunday, November 17, 3:00 p.m. Hosted by the Missouri History Museum.

School Library Journal recommends this book for grades 10 and up.

–Julie D., IT

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