Thursday, September 6, 2007

Geography Club

by Brent Hartinger

A Gay Straight Alliance by any other name would smell as sweet...

"Geography Club" won a truckload of awards! (Check out Brent's website for the full list of accolades!)

Oh - and it's the first of a SERIES!!!! (four books total - though you may have to count it as five once you check out "Split Screen!")

Add your review of this book in "comments!"


Anonymous said...

Hartinger’s novel is a short but thoughtful exploration of a tiny band of school misfits as they decide that one way of coping with their “oddity” is to create a club that they believe will serve as their shield from the rest of their school. These misfits are queer kids, and they’re all stuck in smalltown America, specifically in a school that seems to have been the model for every nightmarish teen movie that’s been put out by Hollywood. There are the usual suspects, of course: obnoxious, bullyish jocks; serious, detached intellectuals; radicals; all other groups that fall along certain points in the school’s social spectrum. Then there’s Brian Bund, the ultimate outcast - the stuttering, pimply-faced target of cruel jokes from the popular crowds.

What I like the most about the novel is the fact that the main character, Russel, is shown in all his colors. Though on the whole likable, he’s also very real - ergo, he’s flawed, and he stumbles not once or even twice, but several times along the way. He’s shown on the precipice again and again, facing two choices - the easy way out versus the right one, which he knows is always the most difficult one to take. He’s well aware of the blunders he’s making and even admits to his cowardice, and it’s something that kids - when placed in a similar high pressured situation - can very well relate to. At a time when ostracism from the very people from whom they desperately want to earn respect is pretty much tantamount to a death sentence, it’s very easy to cave in to peer pressure. Russel, in addition to Kevin and Terese, fall into the trap quite a few times.

There’s redemption in the end for some members of the Geography Club, and there’s the painfully seductive lure of the closet for the others. Again, it’s a situation that’s nicely grounded in real life, and kudos to Hartbinger for not feeding us something that’s so cleanly wrapped up a la family-style sitcoms in the end.

I suppose the only objection that I have is the too-limited way that some of the characters are drawn. The bad ones are too evil, and while the good ones are painted with more nuanced shades, there are some - like Min - who are also too good. In Min’s case, I’m guessing that the story needs a strong moral center, a foil against whom Russel and the other kids should set themselves, all the better to realize how badly they’re behaving or how wrong they are in making some of their choices. That she herself is bisexual only serves to strengthen her position as that moral center, given the nature of their club. All the same, she still feels less developed and less rounded a character against Russel’s more complex one.

Geography Club is a short, earnest story with a good message to share with both queer and straight kids. I’d be interested in reading the sequel(s) to this book and to see how much farther some of the key players will go in their development.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

"Anonymous" posted this on October 14, 2009 elsewhere on this blog - and I've moved it here:

Have you read /Geometry Club/? I wouldn't call it ground-breaking, but it was a fun read. What's great is that it's not a book about being a kid who's gay; it's about feeling different, the fear that goes with that, and growing into a space of your own. And that's really accessibly stuff for any kid.