All of which leads me to... the real story, about The Real Story Safe Sex Project, or rather, my review of a story that is part of the the RSSSP.
As you may recall, Geography Club was a slightly contested YA novel released in 2003 that got banned by a local school in the author's home town in 2005 when a parent complained. It went on to win or be-nominated for the kind of coming-of-age teen novel type of awards that these books get nominated for. Even though nobody except teachers, librarians and the people being nominated followed those awards closely. It was the kind of book that would have caught the eye of any gay male student in middle school or high school walking through the bookstore or library.
Intentionally or not, they saw the the interesting name with it's bright green handwriting on poster-white, and they picked it up. They flipped it over and came face-to-face with something that set their teenage hearts aflutter: Eyes staring at them through glass.. The eyes that were just as bored and tired and locked up by school as they felt their life to be, but also, like them in other ways. *ching went the gaydar* And they looked around to see if anyone else noticed the shock and adrenaline running through their system as they very calmly, very nonchalantly lifted the cover in their hand.
But it was too good to be true.
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...For those of us gay male millenials that were readers, this was how we found Geography Club. Just before or just after we came out ourselves.
This was how we were introduced to Seattle native Brent Hartinger.
Two Thousand Pounds Per Square Inch by Hartinger continues the story of Geography Club's Russel Middlebrook right where we left off when we forgot about the sequel and prolific side-project. While we've been away, Russell has been growing up with us.
He's been having other adventures and other perspectives that we might have missed while starting our own gay (and sometimes eventually queer) lives at college.
And in this brief short story, released free on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and otherwise available. we we find him in the same, predictably and embarrassingly uncomfortable situations that we hoped never to be caught in. It's wonderfully NSFW, and appeals to our new-found sense of irony that it reads like a PSA with all the details and facts of every comprehensive sex education pamplet we read when we volunteerer in our community. After all, we were the bookish-type who read everything we could about sex before we ever had it.
It's embarrassing. It's titillating. And in many cases when we remember the news stories and remember our younger siblings trailing just behind Russell, the oblivious would-could-maybe-already-are statistics we were working to ensure would be the last to grow up with the same abstinence only ignorance we experienced. We think about them and it's probably making us feel a little guilty when we think about practicing what we preach. And that's how TTPPSI surprises us: by still addressing us.
The disclaimer at the end reminds us we've read the same news articles that both gave us hope and made us lax when deep down we know every we just read is true. We've just been lectured at by "Brent" not to be confused with Brent even though we know his all-too-obvious stand-in nature means that it really is Brent lecturing us because he knows we'll smile sheepishly before spreading it like wildfire.
Because he also knows we'll know he wants us to, so those could-be statistics will get this sooner and take one more step with Russell before taking our place.
On another note, it's also great timing because it was released for free as part of The Real Life Story Safe Sex Project's first wave of stories right in time for Geography Club's movie (IMDB) was being released for limited runs in theaters.
And it got some good reviews, so hopefully it'll get wide enough distribution so we can relive Russell's drama again.