The Order of the Poison Oak by Brent Hartinger was highly recommended to me by one of the teens in my library. I can't remember the last time someone was so enthusiastic about a book, so I had to bump it to top of the pile and start reading.
First thing to know: yes, this is a sequel to Geography Club, but you don't have to read the first book first.
Second thing to know: this is an amazing book. It has everything: humor, friendship, adventure, and romance.
It's summer, and Russel has left town for a summer job in the mountains, working as a counselor for a sleepover camp. Part of the attraction of the job: he is tired of being "that gay kid who started the Gay Straight Bisexual Alliance." It's not that Russel wants to escape people knowing he is gay; he wants to escape being known only for being gay. Also at camp are his two best friends, Gunnar, who is straight but clumsy with girls, and since he's in the Alliance everyone at school now assumes he's gay; and Min, who is confident and outspoken and bi.
Russel meets his fellow counselors, including Web, who is drop dead gorgeous. But Min, who had a girlfriend in GC, gets to Web first. But then Web seems to be flirting with Russel... It's a classic romantic triangle. At the same time, Russel discovers that being a camp counselor isn't as easy as it looks, especially when the first group of kids are all burn survivors.
What is great about this book: finally, a book about GLBT teens that isn't about coming out and what people will think. Don't get me wrong; those books are important. It's especially important that there are now GLBT books that don't end in death and unhappiness. But its also important for GLBT books to take that extra step from being only about coming out to something else.
TOotPO is about romance; about falling in lust and falling in love and how the two aren't the same; it's about friendship and love and what happens when friendship gets in the way of love and vice versa. And it's about independence and becoming oneself. And it's about how growing up means becoming less self centered.
Russel narrates and he is funny as hell. His friends are equally wonderful; I felt badly for the inept Gunnar, and I was annoyed with Min. (Annoyed in the good way one gets annoyed at a fictitious character: Annoyed because she was so real and I've known Mins and been friends with Mins. Not annoyed in the bad way, which is when you are reading thinking "not real. not real.") TOotPO would make a great teen movie (Hollywood, are you listening?) because -- as the teen at the library told me -- it has everything. And it does. This book is firmly in my Top Ten Books of 2005 list.
Now all we need -- because I'm the demanding sort -- are GLBT teen books that are fantasy. And science fiction. And mystery.
Did I already thank you for the plug? A friend sent me the link, and I couldn't have been more delighted. Sure made my day!
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