Book Review: The Order of the Poison Oak

The Order of the Poison Oak by Brent Hartinger

SUMMARY: 16-year-old Russel, tired of being the freak at school, tries to escape as a counselor in a rural summer camp with his two best friends. The camp kids are pre-teen survivors, scarred and disfigured, and Russel identifies with them. But Russel fights with his friends, especially after discovering that he and bisexual Min are attracted to the same gorgeous counselor guy. This is an honest, tender, funny, first-person narrative that brings close what it's like to have a crush and hate a friend.

OPINION: This book is a sequel to Geography Club. Although I liked that book and recommended it to our teen book group, I was somewhat disappointed in this sequel. The character development is really good, as Russell and his friends grow and change in new directions away from school. But, it seemed to me that the author was trying too hard to convey the message about coping with differences and finding hidden beauty. I am not given to exploring the subtleties of metaphor in authors' writing, but Hartinger really beat the reader over the head with the message. I hear that more books are planned about these characters, and I am still looking forward to them.

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