Geography Club was a quick and easy read that manages to tackle the very complex landscape of being closeted in high school. There were some things abGeography Club was a quick and easy read that manages to tackle the very complex landscape of being closeted in high school. There were some things about this book that had me jumping for joy and some things that just left me lukewarm so I'm rating rather harshly when I give it only 3 stars.
Geography Club had me hooked the second I saw it highlighted more than just one character who identifies as gay. Guys! We have a bisexual! I REPEAT! We have a bisexual! Having a group of LGB who all come from different social groups was fantastic to see. The book does a great job at presenting the challenges that come with a group of kids (who all have very different personalities) trying to come together and form a sense of unity. The biggest selling point of this book is the way the characters interact with each other. The dialogue is very well written and this gives each character a real distinct personality. Geography Club is primarily focused on the idea of friendships between LGB rather than just the idea of romantic partners. Actually, despite the romantic relationships in the book I almost hesitate to label it a ya-romance because it leans more towards being contemporary ya.
The idea of a bunch of closeted kids forming their own secret gay club is kind of perfect. The book does a great job at illustrating why the characters are so scared to come out and the sense of loneliness that is caused by being isolated because of that kept secret. The book also touches upon the feeling of being trapped in this social environment of fear that high school creates. All of which I absolutely enjoyed reading.
However, despite Geography Club's focus on all these painful topic I was not as impressed with the writing as I would have liked to have been. As I said earlier, the dialogue and characterization is great, but the tone and content of Russel's inner most thoughts felt like it was holding a lot back from the reader. For one, there is a giant blank space where Russel's home life is concerned. Parents are only briefly mentioned at one of the Club meetings, which I had hoped would lead to more, but throughout the book Russel never discusses what his life is like outside of school. It seemed like a really strange decision to not include something about his home life especially considering he's sneaking out at weird hours and randomly joining sports teams. I realized at the end of the book I knew very little about Russel as a person outside of school drama and his experiences within the Geography Club, which I think limits the story's impact.
The other issue I had was with the Gunnar/Kimberly/Trish plot line. Not only did I find it to be incredibly toxic and cringe worthy I think there should have been some serious consequences to follow up what happened at the end of the book. I'm not going to write about the events themselves since that would take me into major spoiler territory, but I would like to discuss alcoholism. Alcoholism is a subject that comes up as part of three character's backgrounds: Kevin, Belinda, and Kimberly. For Kevin and Belinda it is used to create understanding and empathy, for Kimberly it's used to emphasize what a villain she is. I consider alcohol abuse to be a pretty serious subject and I didn't like the dichotomy that was created when it was used as a genuine story element on one page and then used to characterize a person as being out of control/"bad" on another. If you're going to make certain topics even a minor/minuscule part of your story I expect a lot more follow through on how those themes are handled.
Overall, I enjoyed the book for it's characters and am actually looking forward to seeing what the film adaptation does with the story. I'd recommend it to anyone interested to give Geography Club a shot. I read it cover to cover in a little under 2 hours, which made the experience as a whole well worth it....more