Tuesday, August 07, 2012

[Book Review] GEOGRAPHY CLUB by Brent Hartinger

Fiction/Gay and Lesbian/Young Adult

Gay and Lesbian fiction was discussed during July's What's Your Flavor session at the Central Library. 

Jason reviews GEOGRAPHY CLUB by Brent Hartinger (HarperTempest, 2003) 

I’d like to start with this book with a confession: I would not have read this book if I had not been assigned to read a book on Gay and Lesbian Fiction. Gay rights are an important subject to me and although I have no problems with books or media on the subject, I also had no real desire to seek it out. This book, along with another gay superhero book I’ve read previously (Hero by Perry Moore) may change all of that.

I loved, loved, loved this book and it has become one my favorite books this year. It tells the story about a closeted young male teenager who believes he is the only gay person in his smallish high school until he meets an anonymous teen in a chat room. They decide to meet and end up discovering three more gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers that go to their school and decide they would like to form their own support group.

The book has some excellent humor to it and I liked how realistic and interesting the characters were. This isn’t a fairy tale where everything will work out perfectly, the main characters don’t always make the right choices when faced with tough decisions, but one of the big themes is that we get second chances to do the right thing.

One of the other main things I appreciated about this book was how it combined a coming of age story about peer pressure and climbing the high school social ladder with a coming out story about trying to stay true to your sexuality and your morals. I also liked how it gave multiple perspectives even though the story is told through a single point of view. The characters are so well done and the main character is so insightful that you really come to understand the pressures the other characters are under.

One criticism I had with this book was that it feels a bit dated. The copyright date was in 2003, but from some of the technology mentioned, such as using IM’s, chat rooms and emails to communicate, it seems that the book is quite a bit older. The mindset of the characters seem older and less progressive as well, this could be attributed to the small-town status, but the reaction the school has when they think someone is gay seems a bit extreme in today’s world. Perhaps this is due to my own ignorance, but I feel like today a lot more adults and teens would be accepting.

In summary, I think this is an excellent book. It’s informative, engaging and humorous without being preachy or depressing. It’s a book that anyone in high school can relate to because it focuses so much on peer pressure and social statuses and it’s interesting enough to keep the reader’s attention. Please read this if you have any interest in high school dramas or gay fiction, you will not regret it.

Jason Sharp, Whitehaven Library

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