By Jeff Walsh
I have a friend and former teacher that I see whenever I go home to visit and, even without much warning, we'll end up sitting at a corner table at a casino bar, order some drinks, and settle in.
It's become pretty routine that we're going to catch up on things, have some deep conversation, and just enjoy each other's company for a few hours. And, no matter how long it's been since we last got together, the connections flood back and you realize the special bonds that people share.
When I got my review copy of Brent Hartinger's The Elephant of Surprise, I was a bit apprehensive. How long ago did I read the last book? How did it end? And, since this is the fourth book in the Geography Club series that began a decade ago, how did we get here?
I didn't need to worry. First of all, Hartinger does a quick summary at the beginning of the book. But as you start reading the names, and how the characters interact, it all starts coming back to you. Maybe not every plot point of all three books, but the bonds between the characters, the little quirky details, and the comfort of being on a journey with these friends again.
If anyone wants to check it out, Brent is featured on a recent Feast of Fools podcast. Click here to listen.
hi just thought i'd say hi!
OK, to round out Brent Hartinger Week on Oasis, he is going to be giving away the following to TWO lucky winners, both of which will receive the following:
By Brent Hartinger
I was standing far from daylight, deep in an echoing corridor of stone. The air was dry and dusty, and all around me, lifeless bodies lurched and groaned.
Then my best friend Gunnar motioned to me and my other best friend Min from over by a bulletin board next to a row of lockers. "Russ! Min!" he said. "You have to come see this!"
I was standing in the concrete hallways of Robert L. Goodkind High School, surrounded by sleep-deprived high school students. Hey, it was 8 A.M. - what'd you expect?
By Brent Hartinger
I was surrounded by fires, angry blazes raging all around me. The flames hissed and crackled, their blistering heat searing my exposed skin. I desperately wanted to run, but there was no escape. I was trapped by the heat. Any step I might take, any direction I might turn, the flames would flare up and engulf me.
Then the school bell rang, and the students around me began bustling off to class.
I was standing in the hallway of Robert L. Goodkind High School in the moments before my first period. I was surrounded by flames, yeah, but not the kind you might think. No, the fires that threatened me were the flames of hatred and suspicion that flickered in the eyes of my classmates. Why did I feel like the hallway of my high school was some perilous corridor of fire, and that the looks in the eyes of the other students were the flames of that blazing inferno? There is a very short answer to that question: earlier in the year, some friends and I had started the Goodkind High Gay-Straight-Bisexual Alliance. And now the whole school knew I was gay.
By Brent Hartinger
I was deep behind enemy lines, in the very heart of the opposing camp. My adversaries were all around me. For the time being, my disguise was holding, but still I felt exposed, naked, as if my secret was obvious to anyone who took the time to look. I knew that any wrong action, however slight, could expose my deception and reveal my true identity. The thought made my skin prickle. The enemy would not take kindly to my infiltration of their ranks, especially not here, in their inner sanctum.
Then Kevin Land leaned over the wooden bench behind my locker and said, "Yo, Middlebrook, let me use your shampoo!"
I was in the high school boys' lockerroom at the end of third period P.E. class. I'd just come from the showers, and part of the reason I felt naked was because I was naked. I'd slung my wet towel over the metal door of my locker and was standing there all goosebumpy, eager to get dressed and get the hell out of there. Why exactly did I feel like the boys' lockerroom after third period P.E. was enemy territory -- that the other guys in my P.E. class were rival soldiers in some war-like struggle for domination? Well, there's not really a short answer to that question.
By Jeff Walsh
With his first novel, Geography Club, Brent Hartinger captures the angst and loneliness of feeling that you're the only gay person in the world. How it is difficult to imagine that, in the segregated high school social scene, your "different" sexuality is hidden under the surface and can unite you with people you otherwise wouldn't know, talk to, or considering hanging out with.
In the novel, Russel does his best to avoid anything that might tip people off that he's gay. He plays along with the jokes in the locker room, dates girls, whatever it takes. Online one night, Russel finds a chat room for his small town in Idaho on a gay website. He starts chatting with the person known only as GayTeen in the room. They are the same age. They are in the same grade. And.. they go to the same school?! Russel is a perfect blend of fear and excitement, unable to consider anyone else in his school, his grade even, could also be gay, while also fearing revealing his own identity. Neither will reveal their real name first, fearing the other person won't do the same. Instead, they decide to go meet in person and, that night, they come face to face.
Once the two characters meet, Russel's desire to talk about everything (meeting this guy, his being gay, etc.) leads him to come out to friends, who eventually form their own secret society within the high school. A group of them decide to meet twice a week for "Geography Club," picked because it sounds so boring no one else would ever show up to attend. And safer than a GSA, because no one has to come out as gay to talk about geography.
By Jeff Walsh
In The Order of the Poison Oak, his sequel to Geography Club, Brent Hartinger avoids the 'haven't we been here before' feeling sequels sometimes often evoke by changing up everything but the main characters. This time, we still get Russel, Gunnar and Min from the first book, but the premise of the book is that to get away from everything, the trio become summer camp counselors.
Russel sees it as a way to go somewhere where no one will know he's gay, after starting his school's GSA and becoming the school fag in the process. Gunnar wants to use the summer as a way to avoid girls in general. And Min, who helped start the GSA as well, agrees to go with them.
The book is a fun read where we see the main characters have crushes on other counselors, as they have to learn how to make young camp attendees behave and follow instructions. Even when things could be perceived as heavy-handed (a camp full of burn victims with a forest fire approaching?), Hartinger makes it all work somehow.
By Jeff Walsh
"Split Screen: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies / Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies" is not only the longest book title we're ever likely to review on Oasis, it is also the third book in Brent Hartinger's Geography Club series.
Reading this book, my thoughts kept returning to E. Lynn Harris, who had a very successful string of books that featured the same recurring characters. Every time you would open the books in his Invisible Life series, you immediately fell right back into step with that world and its inhabitants. Some people dismissed them as lightweight, but an ongoing series with a storyline of almost entirely black characters dealing with sexuality isn't lightweight by its very definition.
With "Split Screen," Hartinger continues the paths of Russel, Min, Gunnar, and Kevin that began in Geography Club, and continued in Order of the Poison Oak.
We're going to pay special attention when people who specifically reach out to gay youth do interesting things on Oasis.
First up for this royal treatment is Brent Hartinger, whose first gay youth novel Geography Club, has spawned two sequels. The second sequel, Split Screen will be released tomorrow.
But to commemorate the publication of his book, it will be Brent Hartinger Week on Oasis. So, every day, we will have have Brent content. Today, you get my long, long, long interview with him (I almost split it across two days, but I always hate when sites do that, so I did it all as one big thing). Tomorrow, my review of Split Screen...
As for what will show up on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, you'll just have to come back and see.
By Jeff Walsh
This week, the second sequel to Brent Hartinger's "Geography Club" will be released. "Split Screen" is actually two books in one. One book, told from Russel's point of view, is entitled "Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies." The other covers the same timeframe, but is told from Min's point of view, and is entitled "Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies." This time, Hartinger's cast of characters are spending time as extras on a horror movie being shot in their hometown.
Brent and I had a long chat that went into all different areas, but covered a lot about his view on writing sequels, a lot about writing in general (a LOT), our shared belief that there is no writer's block, and why he thinks the younger generation that is supportive of the GLBTQ youth movement are going to be the people who change the world for the better.