Russel Middlebrook is convinced he's the only gay kid at Goodkind High School. Then his online gay chat buddy turns out to be none other than Kevin, the popular but closeted star of the school's baseball team. Soon Russel meets other gay students, too. There's his best friend Min, who reveals that she is bisexual, and her soccer-playing girlfriend Terese. Then there's Terese's politically active friend, Ike. But how can kids this diverse get together without drawing attention to themselves?
"We just choose a club that's so boring, that nobody in their right mind would ever in a million years join it. We could call it Geography Club!"
Brent Hartinger's debut novel, what became first of a series about Russel Middlebrook, is a fast-paced, funny, and trenchant 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 high school and the even more dangerous landscape of the human heart. This is Book 1 in the Russel Middlebrook Series.
Narrator Josh Hurley's performance has the fervent honesty of a confession, and his narration will resonate with listeners who know what it feels to be different and isolated. High school sophomore Russel Middlebrook is gay and closeted, and it feels like the only time he can really be himself is when he's chatting online with a gay buddy. When that buddy turns out to be the gorgeous star of the school's basketball team, and after his best friend reveals that she's bisexual, Russel begins to realize that he may not be alone, after all. Hurley movingly depicts how Russel's self-protective shell transforms into a voice that is filled with confidence and hope.
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Great narration and timely topic
Josh Harley was totally convincing as the voice of Russell.
I was drawn to the book after seeing the small independent film version, which I discovered before hearing of the series. As I was reading all four books in the series, my partner, who volunteers with a youth diversity committee at his school, asked about any resources that might be good for teens who are struggling with sexual/gender identity issues. I immediately suggested that we buy a set of the books for the group because (a) they are a bit more contemporary than others, (b) they offer a larger spectrum of diversity than is typical, and (c) the characters are imperfect, like everyone else, yet learn from their experiences. So, yes, I would highly recommend this book (and the subsequent entries in the series) to friends and colleagues.
They did, and it was a pleasant film, but really fails to really capture the heart of this book, which is about the relationships Russell has during a pivotal time in his life. So, my proposed tag line would be, "Preview to a great series of YA novels!"
I applaud Mr. Hartinger for writing a YA novel that really holds onto the voice of a teen. There are so many books, television shows, and movies out there in which young people espouse great proclamations and truths that are extremely rare for individuals with so little experience with life and who are soaking up as much as they can during those critical adolescent years. The voices of these characters feel very real, no matter how unglamorous or uncool as they may be received. Many thanks for an entertaining, yet compelling, series of books!
Different but very good