Brent Hartinger, Author . HarperTempest $15.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-001221-2

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.)

Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 226 pages - 978-0-06-001223-6
Library Binding - 226 pages - 978-0-06-001222-9
Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-06-196839-6
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-29719-6
Prebound-Sewn - 240 pages - 978-0-613-71366-5
MP3 CD - 978-1-5318-0832-7
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