Russel Middlebrook Books

(A Series for Adults)

The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know
By Brent Hartinger

Book 1 in Russel Middlebrook: The Futon Years

I guess this was what they meant by a loss of innocence. Who knew?

TheThingIDidntKnowHARTINGERRussel Middlebrook is twenty-three years old, gay, and living in trendy Seattle, but life isn’t keeping up with the hype. Most of his friends have a direction in life—either ruthlessly pursuing their careers or passionately embracing their own aimlessness. But Russel is stuck in place. All he knows is that crappy jobs, horrible dates, and pointless hook-ups just aren’t cutting it anymore.

What’s the secret? What does everyone else know that he doesn’t?

Enter Kevin, Russel’s perfect high school boyfriend. Could rekindling an old flame be the thing Russel needs to get his life back on track? Or maybe the answer lies with a new friend, an eccentric screenwriter named Vernie Rose, who seems plenty wise. Or what the hell? Maybe Russel will find some answers by joining his best friend Gunnar’s crazy search for the legendary Bigfoot!

One way or another, Russel is determined to learn the all-important secret to life, even if it’s a thing he doesn’t even know he doesn’t know.

Author Brent Hartinger first made a splash writing books for teens. The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, Hartinger’s first book for older readers, is just as much of a page-turner as his earlier works, with plenty of his trademark irreverent humor. But now his books have grown up along with his readers, exploring the issues of new adults, especially the complicated matter of love and sex.


“A superb read. Hartinger nails the voice of a character right on the precipice of adulthood, a young man who feels lost amid a Seattle landscape full of adults who have it all figured out, peers who seem to have either unstoppable career drive or passionate aimlessness. It’s fun, moving, and real. Read it!”
– Bill Konigsberg, award-winning author of Openly Straight and Out of the Pocket

“The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know is a real page turner and I laughed, I gasped, I cheered for Russel, and everything in between as I read it. Brent hits the nail on the head when describing adulthood for the new generation: how we have dreams, fears, and are lost.”
Sensible Reason Magazine

​”Russel Middlebrook is an extremely engaging character, and I positively adored him…. For as little as Russel seems to think is going on in his life, he certainly kept me captivated with his story.”
Swept Away by Romance

Brent Hartinger knows the pulse of his readers, and once again he has delivered them a book so timely and so needed. Adult readers new and old will connect with The Thing I didn’t Know I Didn’t Know as it captures accurately the fears, concerns, and insecurities of anyone who ever wondered where their life was headed.”
– Brian Centrone, author of An Ordinary Boy

“Hartinger is a master at placing his readers directly into the minds of his characters. In The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, we’re fooled into thinking Russel is all fluff, and then-—wham. It all pulls together in ways that apply to us all. And Hartinger makes it fun.”
– Robin Reardon, author of A Secret Edge and Educating Simon

(A Young Adult Series)

Geography Club
By Brent Hartinger

Book 1 in the Russel Middlebrook Series

Russel Middlebrook is convinced he’s the only gay kid at Robert L. Goodkind High School. Then his online gay-chat buddy turns out to be none other than Kevin, the popular but closeted star of the school’s baseball team. Soon Russel meets other gay students too. There’s his best friend, Min, who reveals she‘s bisexual; Min’s soccer-playing girlfriend, Terese; and Terese’s politically active friend, Ike.

But how can kids this diverse get together without drawing attention to themselves?

“We just choose a club that’s so boring nobody in their right mind would ever in a million years join it. We could call in the Geography Club!”

Geography Club is for anyone, gay or straight, who’s ever felt like an outsider — a fast-paced and funny tale of teenagers who may not learn any actual geography in their latest club, but who discover plenty about the treacherous social terrain of high school, and the even more dangerous landscape of the human heart.

Awards and Honors

  • A Two-Time Book Sense 76 Pick
  • A Banned Books Book Sense Top Ten Pick
  • A USA Today “Great High School Book”
  • A Children’s Book Award “Notable Book”
  • A 2003 Lambda Literary Award Finalist
  • An ALA “Popular Paperback”
  • A Nancy Pearl (Booklust) “Very Best Teen Novel”
  • A New York Public Library “Book for the Teen Age”
  • A Booklist “Top Ten Best First YA Novel”
  • A “Best of 2003″
  • Volunteer State Book Award (Tennessee), 2nd Place
  • A Texas HS Reading List (TAYSHAS) Pick
  • A Connecticut Library Association “Best Book”
  • A Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee
  • An Eliot Rosewater Award (Indiana) Nominee
  • A Tri-State “Book of Note”
  • An Evergreen (Washington) Young Adult Book Award Nominee
  • A Flume Award Nominee
  • CA State Dept. of Education “Recommended Literature”
  • A Maryland Library “Great Book”
  • A YALSA “Must Read” Book


“A compelling look at the high school scene and the serious consequences of being ‘different.’ The plot never falters. Dialogue flows smoothly and is always completely believable….Characterization is excellent…This author has something to say here, and his message is potent and effective in its delivery. Many teens, both gay and straight, should find this novel intriguing.”
School Library Journal

“This honest, emotional and funny story follows a gay teen as he struggles and triumphs during his sophomore year. (His adventures are continued in The Order of the Poison Oak and Double Feature: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies.) The books are entertaining for all readers, regardless of their sexuality.”
USA Today

“Hartinger has crafted a truly hilarious and original novel that is every bit as complex and engaging as the last good adult book you read…It’s a credit to Hartinger that you can be as straight as uncooked pasta and not remember anything of high school beyond your school colors, and still find this book thoroughly enjoyable.”
– Spokane Inlander

“A breath of fresh air — mainly because, with all of his foibles, Russell is such a likable guy, with a wonderful sense of humor.”
Seattle Times

“This is such a masterly crafted novel…[Hartinger] is also a playwright; perhaps that accounts for the story’s solid structure and for its author’s skills at building the intensity and complexity of the plot and the fortunes of its characters to an unexpected, almost third-act crescendo at the end.”
– Nancy Garden (author of Annie on my Mind) in Lambda Book Report

Geography Club deserves every bit of praise it’s been receiving.”
Dallas Voice

“What gives [Geography Club] distinction is Russel’s pointed narration, pitch-perfect as the slightly superior, world-weary, and ironic gay boy who you know will make a grand success of himself once he manages to get past adolescence…this is the most artful and authentic depiction of a gay teen since M.E. Kerr’s groundbreaking Charlie Gilhooly in [1978's] I’ll Love You When You’re More Like Me.”
Horn Book Magazine

The Order of the Poison Oak
By Brent Hartinger

Book 2 in the Russel Middlebrook Series

“Summer camp is different from high school. Something about spending the night. Things happen.”

Russel Middlebrook is back, in a stand-alone sequel to Geography Club, and he’s off to work as a summer camp counselor with his best friends Min and Gunnar. He’s sick and tired of being openly gay in high school, and a peaceful summer at Camp Serenity is just what he needs to relieve the stress that comes from being an “out” teenager.

But he doesn’t count on sudden new rivalries with Min and Gunnar, or having to chase after a cabin full of unruly campers. And he especially doesn’t count on a fellow counselor as hunky as Web Bastion.

Things do happen at Camp Serenity, especially at night. Brent Hartinger’s third novel is a story about Indian legends, skinny-dipping in moonlit coves, and the mysteries of a secret society called the Order of the Poison Oak. But more than anything, this witty page-turner is about bravery in the face of unexpected danger, the passion of a sizzling summer romance, and, most of all, the courage to be yourself.

PoisonOakJacketAwards and Honors

  • A Bookspan Book Club Main Selection
  • A Book Sense 76 Pick
  • An ALA “Popular Paperback”
  • An ALA “Rainbow List” Pick
  • A “Best of 2005″
  • A BookLoons “Best of 2005″
  • A “Best of 2005″
  • A “Teen Squared” Best Book of 2005
  • A BiMagazine “Must Read” Book
  • A Holiday Pick
  • A “Mostly Fiction” Top Novel of 2005
  • A YALSA “Teen Top Ten” Nominee
  • A Maryland Library “Great Book”


“[When I finished the book], I was sniffling and my eyes were moist: It’s what’s meant by the phrase ‘being moved to tears.’…the book is beautifully written, authentic-sounding and smart….all the right traditional values are underscored: honesty, cleverness, generosity, trust.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“A touching and realistic portrait of gay teens. The characters are three-dimensional, and Russell narrates in a perfect teen patois that is often hilarious. Teens — gay and straight — will connect.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Hartinger is a master at crafting a high school setting, and Russel, Min, Gunnar and all the rest are just great characters … A brave, bold book.”

“I pray I can consistently deliver books of the same high caliber as I try to follow in Brent’s footsteps. He inspired me beyond belief. His work made me believe in myself, even when I wasn’t sure I could believe in myself. For this, and for all his groundbreaking work, I, we, all of us owe a tremendous debt to Brent Hartinger, and here’s to more and more books from one of my favorite authors.”
–Perry Moore, author of Hero.

“This storyline could have easily become maudlin and sappy, but he kept it crisp and authentic … While his books are aimed primarily at a teen audience, kids of all ages will love his realistic and relatable tales of teenaged angst … Must read. (Highest Rating)”

“Hartinger [is one of the] big success stories in YA lit.”
The Advocate

“Lest any of this sounds angst-ridden, it’s all leavened by Russel’s chatty, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes enthusiastic teen voice. He addresses the reader like one teen telling his story to another, lending the story an immediacy and sense of reality, and his observations can be funny as well as refreshingly honest.”

“The story transcends queer kid romance angst … The Order of the Poison Oak, with its easygoing emphasis on the virtue of tolerance and the value of friendship, is a well-pitched novel for teen readers — but one that will appeal to grownups with a yen for intelligent, humorous coming-of-age fiction.”
– Richard Labonte’s Book Marks

“A delight … funny, touching … With this third novel from Brent Hartinger, I can see that he is an author who is only becoming more accomplished. (Highest Rating)”
Midwest Book Review

Double Feature: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies/Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies
By Brent Hartinger

Book 3 in the Russel Middlebrook Series

(Previously published under the title Split Screen)

DoubleFeatureJacketIt’s a horror-movie extravaganza in the second sequel to Brent Hartinger’s Geography Club. Two complete books in one recount the stories of best friends Min and Russel who sign up to be extras on the set of a zombie film — and learn that there’s nothing scarier than high school romance!

In the first book, Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies, Russel must choose between his long-distance boyfriend and a close-to-home ex named Kevin who wants to get back together. In the second book, Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies, Min struggles to accept her cheerleader girlfriend’s decision to stay in the closet.

But beware! Russel and Min’s separate stories affect each other in surprising ways — and you’ll have to read both books together to find out the whole story.

Winner of the Lambda Book Award

Other Awards and Honors

  • An InsightOut Book Club “Alternate Selection”
  • An InsightOut Book Club Bestseller
  • A “Best of 2007″
  • Winner of the National Best Book 2007 Award
  • A 2008 New York Public Library “Book for the Teenage”
  • A Flamingnet “Top Choice”


“I really think this guy could be the next Judy Blume.”
Pop Candy

“Hartinger has a knack for teen dialogue, and his characters spring to life — even in costume as the undead. At the heart of Zombies is the teen friends’ respect and caring for each other, which, these days, is downright refreshing.”
USA Today

“Both stories stand alone, yet each compliments the other. To be expected, the action is fast and funny … [Hartinger] puts his best humor skills to use, and no doubt the same teen fans who formed their own geography clubs will be dubbing their dissenters soul-sucking zombies.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Imaginatively delightful … Hartinger makes clever use of the fact that no two people live through — or recall — shared events the same way.”
– Richard Labonte’s Book Marks

“The best writing of the season … a great read for any dreary afternoon.”
OutSmart Magazine

“Hartinger uses a clever idea to show that perspective is everything … Hartinger’s handling of Russel’s parents is spot-on as well … Hartinger handles his characters with the right amount of angst and humor, making this a valuable read.”

“The vast appeal of a Brent Hartinger novel lies in the way the author captures young men at their most vibrant and comical. Since the debut of his Geography Club in 2003, there has been no stopping his literary success.”
Bay Area Reporter

“What is intriguing about the book is how very differently these two characters interpret the same events, and how oblivious each one can be to what is happening to the other…. There is a lot of humor in this book. The characters’ narrative voices sound authentically teen, and the section in which Russel tells about his coming out to his parents, their reaction, and his subsequent talk with the family priest particularly rings true. Min Wei’s story is equally well told.”
School Library Journal

“I got a huge kick out of the differences in perspective. Russel describes Kevin Land’s smile as ‘impish’, while Min says ‘smug’ … Way fun … Good pick for fans of the rest of Brent Hartinger’s books, as well as for fans of GLBT lit that doesn’t feature a gay character being run over and of course, teens who enjoy breezy romantic comedy.”
Bookshelves of Doom

The Elephant of Surprise
By Brent Hartinger

Book 4 in the Russel Middlebrook Series

ElephantofSurpriseJacketGeography Club’s Russel Middlebrook and his friends Min and Gunnar are back, and they’re laughing about something they call the Elephant of Surprise—the tendency for life to never turn out the way you expect. Sure enough, Russel soon happens upon a hot, but mysterious guy named Wade—even as he’s also drawn back to an old flame named Kevin. Meanwhile, Min learns her girlfriend Leah is keeping secrets, and Gunnar just wants to be left alone to pursue his latest obsession, documenting his entire life online.

But the elephant is definitely on the move in all three of their lives. Just who is Wade and what are he and his friends planning? What is Leah hiding? And why is Gunnar taking naked pictures of Kevin in the shower?

The Elephant of Surprise, the latest entry in Brent Hartinger’s groundbreaking gay teen Russel Middlebrook Series, is a story of humor, romance, and danger. Before it’s over, Russel and his friends will learn that the Elephant of Surprise really does appear when you least expect him—and that when he stomps on you, it really, really hurts.

Awards and Honors

  • Independent Publisher Book Award (Young Adult), Bronze Medalist
  • Rainbow Award, Finalist
  • An Indie Reader “Best of 2013″ Pick


“Along with the edifying main plotline, which will appeal to readers of any age, the well-conceived subplots won’t disappoint young readers looking for the juicy gossip that runs through the series. With Russel, there’s always drama—real and perceived—but definitely no lack of love. Fans of the series will revel in this smart, quirky YA novel that’s ripe with substance beyond the surface.”
Kirkus Reviews

“This is an unusual storyline, but, like Russel, readers may find themselves intrigued by Wade’s [freegan anti-consumerist] lifestyle and beliefs. Secondary plot lines (including one about Russel’s possible reconciliation with his first love, Kevin) support the core drama, and teens will continue to enjoy Russel’s ever-humorous narration. After eating barbecued raccoon with Wade, Russel says, ‘If it doesn’t sound romantic, you’ll just have to take my word for it, because it totally, TOTALLY was.’”
Publishers Weekly

“Like a warm chocolate cookie right out of the oven!”
Buried in Books

“LOVED it. Funny, a lot of heart. Another YA delight from the guy who brought us Geography Club.”
– John Schwartz, author of Oddly Normal.

The Russel Middlebrook Series is “unique and special. Hartinger’s storytelling is alive and uplifting.”
Children’s Literature

“I also continue to admire and celebrate the series for its matter-of-fact approach to diversity. It’s the first time I can recall ever having read the candid thoughts of a gay white male regarding his attraction to a black male that wasn’t loaded down with stereotyping and racial junk. Russel briefly wonders to himself what it would feel like to kiss a black person but dismisses this as an errant thought and simply pursues the object of his affection without reservation. This stuck me as quietly, but thrillingly revolutionary.”

“I loved this book to bits … Russel is a narrator it’s a pleasure to spend time with. He’s honest — often touchingly self-deprecating and always hilariously self-conscious. … This is the kind of teen book I absolutely adore. Funny, thought-provoking and entertaining. Read it!”

“All the charm of the earlier books in the series, but a richer read. As always with this series, we’re given a story of real-life teenage issues that doesn’t lose the wonderful freshness and humor of youth.”
Outsmart Magazine

“A simple, wonderful story … as accessible and reader-friendly as possible. I love this. Oftentimes, particularly lately, stories in the Young Adult genre are riddled with drama and teenage angst. Some of them overly so. This was a lovely change of pace for me, as I suspect it will be for all those who read it. There are, without a doubt, poignant moments in this book, … [but] underlying it all is this wonderful sense of youthful humor.”

“A highly entertaining teen soap opera as much as a very instructive socio-economic investigation.”
The Peaceable Table

Two Thousand Pounds Per Square Inch
By Brent Hartinger

A Free Short Story in the Russel Middlebrook Series

TwoThousandPoundsJacketWarning: this story includes both explicit language about sex and graphic depictions of sex itself.


Russel Middlebrook is a gay teen who’s been through a lot. He’s the lead character in Brent Hartinger’s Lambda Award-winning Russel Middlebrook Series. And he’s also the star of Geography Club, the book that started it all and that has now been adapted as a feature film co-starring Scott Bakula and Ana Gasteyer.

But now Russel is facing his biggest challenge yet: getting tested to find out if he has HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Along the way, he recalls some of his own most important sexual experiences.

This free short story is part of The Real Story Safe Sex Project, a volunteer organization started by Brent Hartinger, using fictional characters to spread the word about HIV/AIDS and safe sex to gay and bi male teens and twentysomethings.


“An incredibly important cause presented in a wonderfully entertaining away. Read it, and pass it on!”
– Michael Jensen, author of Frontiers and Firelands

“A beautiful piece. I’m glad it’s out there in the world.”
– Olivia Ford, Executive Editor of


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