What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this gay-themed coming-of-age story features some strong language, cruel taunting, and other questionable behavior, including the main character's decision to go alone and at night to meet someone he just chatted with online. Russel is pretty much in hiding about his sexuality, but doesn't loathe himself or try to change who he is. In the end, this book will make teens think about tolerance and their own responsibility to stand up for their peers -- and themselves.
What's the story?
Russel knows he's gay, and when he meets a cute classmate in a gay chat room, he is shocked to learn he isn't the only one at school. Soon, he's discovered a handful of gay students, and they form a support group (they call it the Geography Club so no one will suspect -- or want to join). Things are going well for Russel, who's got new support, and even a new secret boyfriend. But when a teacher gives an interview to the school paper saying that -- by mere coincidence -- a gay kid at the school approached her about starting a group, tensions begin to rise in the club. After the school outcast is incorrectly pinpointed as the gay kid, Russel has to figure out how much he's willing to risk to do the right thing.
Is it any good?
Readers will certainly understand gay Russel's fear of being found out, and his happiness at learning he's not alone. Even with the club, Russel is pretty much in hiding -- a traditional plight for gay characters that many modern protagonists no longer experience -- but readers will appreciate that Russel doesn't loathe himself or try to change who he is.
Some of the writing here strains credibility a bit -- Disney animation-loving Russel at times seems too stereotypical, and his romantic relationship with a popular athlete never feels authentic. But while it may not be the smoothest read, it is a book that will appeal to both straight and gay readers, and is likely to make teens think about tolerance and their own responsibility to stand up for their peers -- and themselves.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about sexuality and discrimination. What do you think of people who use the word "gay" to talk about anything bad or lame? Does this happen at your own school?
In recent years there have been a lot more books featuring gay characters. Is the same true for other forms of media, like TV, movies, or video games? What do you think of this trend? What impact does this have on our culture?
Russel meets someone from a chat room alone at night. Parents may want to use this plot point to discuss Internet safety. See Common Sense Media's tip for middle school kids.