These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org
PW Reviews 2003 February #1
A closeted gay high school sophomore narrates Hartinger’s uneven yet realistic first novel. The story starts out strong, when Russel meets a jock from his school, Kevin, in a gay chat room; their tentative decision to meet and their awkward initial conversation convincingly portray the conflict of wanting to reach out yet being afraid of being found out. Then Russel learns that one of his best friends is bisexual and they form a small support group (called the Geography Club as a cover, since “no high school students in their right minds would ever join that”). Russel begins a relationship with Kevin-but complications arise when another friend, Gunnar, unwittingly sets Russel up with an aggressive girl. Then, a teacher reveals in the school paper that a student approached her about starting a gay support group, making the school buzz over that student’s identity. Gunnar’s foul-mouthed date comes across as too obnoxious (“That movie was so gay,” she says), and some readers may find it difficult to believe that Kevin, with the most at stake, would join the Geography Club. But Hartinger credibly captures high school pressure and intolerance, from the opening scene in the boys’ locker room, in which Russel fears being found out, to a painful episode in which an outcast, thought to be the gay student, is humiliated in the school cafeteria. Overall, this novel does a fine job of presenting many of the complex realities of gay teen life, and also what it takes to be a “thoroughly decent” person. Ages 13-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
PW Reviews 2004 March #3
Gay high school students form a small support group called the Geography Club. According to PW, “Overall, this novel does a fine job of presenting many of the complex realities of gay teen life, and also what it takes to be a `thoroughly decent’ person.” Ages 13-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
SLJ Reviews 2003 February
Gr 10 Up-Russel Middlebrook is a sophomore at Goodkind High School. He has a secret crush on a baseball jock, Kevin Land, and soon discovers that Kevin is also gay. The boys become friendly outside of school and set up the “Geography Club” with three other gay students, one of whom is Russel’s closest friend, Min. The club members relish the opportunity to discuss their lives and to relate to one another openly and honestly. Eventually, however, intense peer pressure and insecurity take their toll. Russel’s relationship with Kevin ends, but the “Geography Club” becomes the “Goodkind High School Gay-Straight-Bisexual Alliance,” and the protagonist gains new insight into himself and his place in the world. Hartinger has written a compelling look at the high school scene and the serious consequences of being “different.” The plot never falters. Dialogue flows smoothly and is always completely believable, and the occasional use of profanity adds to the realism of the story. Characterization is excellent, with all of the teens emerging as likable but flawed individuals caught in a situation that few young adults could handle with maturity. This author has something to say here, and his message is potent and effective in its delivery. Many teens, both gay and straight, should find this novel intriguing.-Robert Gray, East Central Regional Library, Cambridge, MN Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Booklist Monthly Selections – # 1 April 2003
Gr. 7-12. Russel is gay, and he knows he better keep it secret, or he’ll be a total outcast in his small-town high school. But then he discovers that there are others like him–including Min, his longtime best friend, and her lesbian lover, as well as gorgeous, popular jock star Kevin. Seven of them form a support group (the “Geography Club” is their cover-up name), and for a short time, life is blissful. Russel has friends with whom he can be himself, and he also makes love with Kevin. Then things fall apart. Russel refuses to have sex with a girl, and word gets out that he’s gay. Kevin can’t come out, so he and Russel break up. Things are settled a little too neatly in the end, but there’s no sermonizing. With honest talk of love and cruelty, friendship and betrayal, it’s Russel’s realistic, funny, contemporary narrative that makes this first novel special. The dialogue is right on; so is the high-school cafeteria; so is the prejudice. Booktalk this. ((Reviewed April 1, 2003)) Copyright 2003 Booklist Reviews
The Horn Book
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2003 Fall
When Russel finds out he’s not the only gay kid at school, he joins with his cohorts to start an after-school support group, code-named the Geography Club. What gives this book distinction is Russel’s pointed narration, pitch-perfect as the slightly superior, world-weary, and ironic gay boy. This is the most artful and authentic depiction of a gay teen since M. E. Kerr’s [cf2]I’ll Love You When You’re More Like Me[cf1]. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Guide Reviews
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2003 #2
While placing a story in the milieu of a support group is almost certainly a clue that Messages will fly thick and fast, two new YA novels also each exploit the device for its irresistible lure: listening in as people reveal their secrets. In Alt Ed, Susan has been sentenced to an after-school discussion group of troublemakers for her alleged involvement in vandalizing another studentÆs truck. This may be the least of her problems: Susan is the school fat girl, and it doesnÆt help that her dad is the football coach and refuses to discuss SusanÆs mother, dead five years. Predictably, involvement in the group does help Susan with all this, but in a believably gradual way and not always in predictable directions. She becomes friends with the school gay kid, Brendan, who is in the group for the same crime as Susanùas is the boy whose truck was damaged. The relationships among the kids are conveyed primarily through dialogue, as you would expect, but the voices are distinct and so are the kids. Although its concerns are as serious as SusanÆs, Geography Club has a better sense of humor. When Russel finds out heÆs not the only gay kid at Goodkind High Schoolùconveniently, his cohorts are Kevin, the jock he has a crush on; and his best friend Min, whoÆs been hiding her relationship with a girl on the soccer teamùhe joins with them to start an after-school support group, which they code name the Geography Club to insure that no one else will join. (Until the day Belinda, who actually wants to join a geography club, shows up.) If anything, this book is even more agenda-driven than Alt Ed, but what gives it distinction is RusselÆs pointed narration, pitch-perfect as the slightly superior, world-weary, and ironic gay boy who you know will make a grand success of himself once he manages to get past adolescence. Listening to locker-room bragging from a boy going on and on about his girlfriend ôbegging for it,ö he thinks, ôThatÆs a lot of begging…. Who was Jarred datingùa homeless person?ö Yet his agonies of ostracism (and first love) are truly conveyedùin all, this is the most artful and authentic depiction of a gay teen since M. E. KerrÆs groundbreaking Charlie Gilhooly in IÆll Love You When YouÆre More Like Me. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Magazine Reviews
Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews
VOYA Reviews 2003 April