I was very excited to read Geography Club by Brent Hartinger...that is until I got to about the second chapter. I was still willing to stick with it, simply because the concept had appealed to me so much when I first heard about it.
The novel is written in the first person from the perspective of a high school kid who is closeted. He struggles with what this means for him and what coming out would do to his social standing. He finds other gay kids and they form a club, but they are still not ready to be out, so they call it the Geography Club and hope no one else will want to join. Of course, this is not what happens. And of course, our protagonist finds a lover. And, of course, that all goes to shit. And, of course, he learns some things about love, friendship, forgiveness, and integrity along the way.
By the third chapter I was so angry at the book for being so badly written that I knew I would not be able to finish it if I could not yell and scream or do something to mark my rage. See, I'm writing a YA novel with a gay male protagonist and therefore feel it is incumbent upon me to read everything that has been published along these lines. So, instead of abandoning the novel, I picked up a highlighter and set out to highlight every clunky or redundant sentence, every turn of phrase that seemed antiquated or in contrast to the speaker's voice, every obvious thought that was expressed despite being glaringly obvious, every fact that contradicted an earlier fact, every cliched metaphor (and the subsequent sentences explaining said metaphor), and every single, solitary reference to the act of writing a book, how this book was like the books the protagonist read in English class, or how the events described in the story seemed like such coincidences (no, see, I'd just chalk that up to a generic plot, weak writing, and the author's need to explain away his bad choices). All I can say, is that after this little highlighting exercise, my book is glowing.
I can't even pinpoint the worst sentence or the worst moment because so many are truly atrocious. And it's really a shame, because the book had such potential. It has a great premise and the framework for some very compelling characters and a very lovely message, but somehow it still does not succeed. And I believe that is due to the writing itself.
Here, I will leave you with a few stand out quotes, and you will just have to trust me that in context these statements read even worse then they will read here.
Page 31 "Never in a million years would I have guessed that Min was bisexual. And yet, now that she'd told me, it already made perfect sense. In a way, it explained everything from her general braininess to her ridiculous perfectionism."
Page 52 "That's when I knew a conversation was like a child: you couldn't just abandon it, then pick it up a day later and expect it to be exactly the way it was before."
Page 124 "The terrain of my own heart, the landscape of love, was still entirely unexplored."
Page 216 "He was sacrificing himself in my place (just like You-Know-Who on the crucifix, or so some people think).
Page 203 "I'd learned something from all those novels in English class. This was an example of the main character- me- getting his comeuppance because of his hubris. (See? I even know the lingo.)"
Page 222 "In spite of everything, he still felt wonderful, like I was embracing a mountain. But I knew that as solid as he seemed, he was no mountain."