Geography Club

Brent Hartinger
Book 1 in the Russel Middlebrook Series.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, 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.


Reviewed: 2018-07-18
I was a quick read, too many exclamation points though :p
Reviewed: 2016-11-22

Nestled in a small-town America high school setting, Geography Club by Brett Hartinger, chronicles the journey of Russel Middlebrook who wrestles with coming to terms with his sexuality.  To feel more comfortable in his own skin, he joins a cyber chat world and befriends Kevin, who not only is a subscriber, but coincidentally the “It” baseball student at Goodkind. Furthermore, Russel finds support with Min, his bisexual best friend who is currently in a relationship with Terese. Inspired by recent events a motley crew of students organize a GSB (Gay, Straight, and Bisexual) club under the auspices of a “Geography Club,” so they can meet without inciting suspicion from other students.   Hartinger throws a possible monkey wrench when Gunnar, Russel’s other and straight best friend, begs him to go on a double date with Kimberly and Trish. Evidently, Russel has not revealed to Gunnar that he is gay, so with much internal chagrin he agrees to go.  On the date, Kevin is able to squirm out of having sex with Trish by informing her the he is saving himself for the right time.  To further solidify his burgeoning friendship with Kevin, Russel joins the football team. As their friendships strengthens Russel asks Kevin to join the “Geography Club.” Since membership into the club is by majority vote, Brian, considered a social pariah, was denied membership due to Russel and Kevin’s vote. Drama ensues which leads Terese to break up with Min. A man on a mission, Gunnar and Russel go on another double date with Kimberly and Trish. Considering that the date was taking place at a cabin, the insinuation of what was to occur there was plainly obvious.  Unfortunately, the intent never came to fruition, as things did not go as planned, and is “saved” by Kevin.  Later, the two are locked in a kiss. There are whisperings that a GSB club is trying to be organized and students suspect that Russel is spearheading this effort, for this reason, Kevin begins to distance himself.  At the end, the Geography Club “comes out” of the proverbial closet.  This was initiated by the unlikeliest person, Brian, who is not gay, but wanted to publically formalize a club so other students who felt alienated had a space where they can feel physically and emotionally secure.  Reconciliation occurs between Russel and Gunnar, who knew that Russel was gay, but his heteronormative agenda was more important.  As for Russel and Kevin, there was no “and” as Kevin retreats to his closet, leaving Russel with his original motley crew of friends.


Geography is a light-hearted novel whose plot is quite predictable.  Even with the international list of characters, which lends the book to be read in a Geography class, I would refrain from including this novel in such a course as it is less about geography and more about the varied emotional topography that high school students experience as they are trying to come to terms with themselves psychologically and sexually.  Perhaps Geography would be useful in “How to Survive” Freshmen course, as they are navigating through unchartered waters called high school.    

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@ginadavidson completed #geographyclubrus... on 2013-04-10