Cover of THE ORDER OF THE POISON OAK by Brent Hartinger

Cover of THE ORDER OF THE POISON OAK by Brent Hartinger

These reviews have been copied from the New York Public Library’s Website – http://www.nypl.org


Publishers Weekly

PW Reviews 2005 March #3

The Order of the Poison Oak by Brent Hartinger picks up with 16-year-old Russel from Geography Club (which, according to PW, “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”), now “out,” who takes a job as camp counselor for burn victims to escape his intolerant classmates. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

PW Reviews 2006 February #3

Sixteen-year-old Russel from Geography Club , now “out,” takes a job as summer camp counselor for burn victims, to escape his intolerant classmates. Ages 14-up. (Feb.)

[Page 159]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal

SLJ Reviews 2005 April

Gr 8 Up-Sixteen-year-old Russel Middlebrook hopes to escape his identity as the token gay guy at school by spending the summer as a counselor in a camp for burn victims. At first he finds that controlling eight hyperactive, 10-year-old hellions is grueling, but once he charms them with a retelling of a fable based on Native American legend in which a multicolored crow is burnt black by fire, he has no trouble taming them. And with their cooperation and enthusiasm, he creates the Order of the Poison Oak, a special club dedicated to outcasts of all types. With its titillating cover, high dramatics, and steamy romance triangles, Hartinger’s novel will definitely score big with teens hankering for a sequel to Geography Club (HarperCollins, 2003). But even with improved characterizations and fast pacing, it’s not enough to cloak the author’s less-than-subtle attempt at equating burn-scar victims with victims of homophobic bigotry and prejudice. Unfortunately, this well-intended yet domineering metaphor smothers many of the novel’s better elements, and ultimately will render more groans than shouts of triumph from its readers.-Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.


Booklist Reviews 2005 January #1

Gr. 7-10. In this sequel to Geography Club (2003), 16-year-old Russel, now openly gay and tired of being the freak at school, tries to escape as a counselor in a rural summer camp with his two best friends. The camp kids are 10-year-old burn survivors, scarred and disfigured, and Russel identifies with them. They also have fun together, once he stops seeing them as “all nervous and noble.” But Russel fights with his friends, especially after discovering that he and bisexual Min are attracted to the same gorgeous counselor guy–who tries to have unprotected sex with each of them. There’s too much metaphor and message, including the stories Russel tells the kids about raging fires, hidden beauty, and developing toughness. What readers will like best is the honest, tender, funny, first-person narrative that brings close what it’s like to have a crush and hate a friend. In one unforgettable scene, some teenagers call the scarred kids freaks, and to his lasting shame, Russel says nothing. ((Reviewed January 1 & 15, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

The Horn Book

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2005 Fall

Eager to flee high school gay-baiting, Russel joins his two best friends as a counselor at a summer camp for young burn survivors. Russel struggles to work with his charges, eventually using his own outsider status to connect with the kids. In this sequel to [cf2]Geography Club[cf1], Hartinger revisits some familiar ideas while enriching the portrayals of Russel and his friends. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews

VOYA Reviews 2005 April

Incredibly heartwarming and hope filled, the sequel to The Geography Club (HarperCollins, 2003/VOYA April 2003) is sure to become a favorite of those who stay through the opening chapter. Quirky, credible characters endear themselves soon enough to enthrall readers with Hartinger’s tale of hope and lust, adolescent angst and dating humiliation, and self-discovery and found leadership qualities among hyperactive young campers. Russel Middlebrook joins best friends Gunnar, who is straight but vilified for supporting the Gay-Straight-Bisexual Alliance, and Min, a bisexual who enjoys scoping out guys aloud in public when with Russ, who would prefer that she remain quiet. Camp Serenity throws them together with burn-survivor campers and staff, a budding sexual predator who is gorgeous, and several other endearingly interesting camp counselors. Some straight male readers at first might be put off by the narrator, wherein he harps on the discomforts of being out in a high school of homophobes, or they might be charmed by the narrator’s asides-cynically humorous parenthetical comments to the reader as if responding to his own internalized, critical self-editor. The parenthetical asides annoyed this middle-aged reader, but they could engage most teens. Self-discovery and maturation, combined with smooth storytelling and strikingly unconventional characters make this book a page-turner by the third chapter. It is highly recommended for libraries, secondary classrooms (using themes around sensitive characters’ feelings of isolation and ostracism), and adults who interact with youth dealing with queer issues.-Cynthia Winfield PLB $16.89. ISBN 0-06-056731-7. 4Q 3P M J S Copyright 2005 Voya Reviews.

One thought on “The Order of the Poison Oak

  1. Pingback: The Order of the Poison Oak | Queer Young Adult Literature

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