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Geography Club



Gay-themed coming-of-age story encourages tolerance.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Could lead to some good discussions about tolerance and discrimination. See our "Families Can Talk About" section for some ideas for discussing this book.

Positive messages

Likely to make teens think about tolerance and their own responsibility to stand up for their peers -- and themselves.

Positive role models

Russel doesn't always act perfectly: He meets someone from a chat room alone at night, and joins in on the bullying of an outcast. But readers will certainly understand his fear of being found out, and his happiness at learning he's not alone -- and appreciate his growing ability to be himself.


A social outcast is physically humiliated.


Some kissing, locker room nudity, and sex talk; the narrator admits to looking at gay porn; a girl pressures the protagonist to have sex. A teacher is fired for her stance against abstinence-only education.


Some swearing, including slurs against gay people.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some characters drink, and one also smokes. The narrator tries chewing tobacco.

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.

Book details

Author:Brent Hartinger
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:June 28, 2005
Number of pages:226

This review of Geography Club was written by

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Teen, 14 years old Written byJacalynnkay March 2, 2010

Amazing book.

I read this book and thought it was great. Im fourteen and have gay friends, and I think the way the author wrote it was amazing. His personal experience makes it so much better.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written bykatieisawesome April 7, 2011

love it! but 12 and up fo sho

i love this book! i am 13 and even tho im not gay, its a very good story about bullying, secrecy, and love. its a very good love story. i highly recommend it!
What other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old June 17, 2014

Um, no...

Excuse me, did we read the same book? My friend convinced me to read it and boy oh boy... Sure, it highlights the bad side of high school bullying. But the theme of the book isn't just bullying. It's about gay teens. And on top of that, instead of getting the help they need, they form a secret group to perpetuate this deviant state of mind. And yet another layer of icing on the cake, there is frequent sexual references, physical bullying that would be scary for kids of any age to read, but there's even a chewing tobacco scene. I'd say the only good thing to come of a young teen reading it would be an opportunity to discuss conservative family values and why they clash with homosexuality. I'm sorry if you think i'm some old stuffy pants, but my position on the issue may be different from yours.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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