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The Order of the Poison Oak

Review

The Order of the Poison Oak

After some tough months at school following his formation of the Goodkind High School Gay-Straight Alliance, a job as a summer camp counselor in the mountains sounds like the perfect getaway for sixteen-year-old Russel Middlebrook. He'll work with his two best friends, Min and Gunnar --- and even better, he'll be a good fifty miles from everyone who knows he's gay.

What Russel soon finds out is that camp is not all s'mores and nature hikes. Left in charge of eight ten-year-olds, all burn survivors, Russel learns that being an effective leader takes more than just size and age; it takes faith in himself, a little creativity, and a Lenape Indian legend. After the campers' bedtime, Russel finds his hours occupied with new friendships and love interests, particularly Web Bestian, the hottest guy in camp. In two tumultuous weeks Russel gains new definitions of trust and loyalty, and in ten he gains a lot of knowledge about what exactly you can and can't do in a rowboat.

No matter your sexuality, there's a lot to learn from funny, frank Russel. Brent Hartinger's writing is beautiful and emotional, but it always feels real, never sappy or didactic. Russel has grown since GEOGRAPHY CLUB (which you don't have to read before this book, but you should), and his voice, while still true to a teenage boy, has a new sense of honesty. The love scenes are very tasteful but definitely hot, with just the right mix of physical contact and fade-to-black.

As Russel discovers beauty in the last place he thought he'd find it, you should discover this beauty of a book. Immediately.

Reviewed by Carlie Webber on March 15, 2005

The Order of the Poison Oak
by Brent Hartinger

  • Publication Date: March 1, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • : 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • ISBN-10: 0060567317
  • ISBN-13: 9780060567316