Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Russel Middlebrook Series Review: Books 3 and 4



Double Feature (Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies and Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies) by Brent Hartinger

Review by Lauren

copy sent for review, but all opinions are my own

Official Summary: It's a horror-movie extravaganza in this, the second sequel to Brent Hartinger's gay teen classic, Geography Club. Two complete books in one recount the stories of best friends Russel and Min 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.


Review: I really enjoyed the set up of Double Feature. You get two stories in one, but it's important to read both books in order to have the full picture. In ATTACK, Russel is dealing with the difficulties of having a long-distance romance. He loves his boyfriend, and wants to be with him, but when they are so far away...how can it be more than just a friendship? Of course, then there is his ex Kevin who is willing to do a lot to get Russel back. It's sweet, but is it genuine? Russel doesn't think so but you have to wait until BRIDE to understand everything concerning Kevin's actions. Another aspect of ATTACK is Russel's dealings with his parents. They finally learn about their son's sexuality and they are less than happy about it. Russel is obviously upset, but he finds ways around his parent's attitude in order to keep his sanity.

The second story BRIDE is different from any of the other Russel Middlebrook books because it's narrated by Min. It takes place during the same time frame as Russel's story, so you get a few scenes that are parallel from the first book. However, as it's from Min's point of view, it never feels too repetitive. I liked getting into the mind of Min and learning a bit more about this know-it-all who just wants a relationship she can pronounce to the world. Her new girlfriend, however, isn't ready to come out...and Min isn't sure she can handle a repeat of her last relationship.

In the end, unique novel and a nice addition to the series!




The Elephant of Surprise by Brent Hartinger
 
Review by Lauren
 
copy sent for review, but all opinions are my own
 
Official Summary: People aren't always what they seem to be. Sometimes we even surprise ourselves.So discovers seventeen-year-old Russel Middlebrook in The Elephant of Surprise, a stand-alone sequel to Brent Hartinger's landmark 2003 gay young adult novel Geography Club (which has now been adapted as a feature film co-starring Scott Bakula and Nikki Blonsky).

In this latest book, Russel and his friends Min and Gunnar are laughing about something they call the Elephant of Surprise – the tendency for life to never turn out as expected. Sure enough, Russel soon happens upon a hot but mysterious homeless activist named Wade, even as he's drawn back to an old flame named Kevin. Meanwhile, Min is learning surprising things about her girlfriend Leah, and Gunnar just wants to be left alone to pursue his latest technology obsession.


Review: As far as I know, this is the final book in the Russel Middlebrook series, though I wish it wasn't since I have come to truly love Russel as a character. For the most part, he is a realistic teenage boy who just wants to find acceptance and love. He doesn't look for trouble, though it does often find him. In the end, though, he has his friends (Min and Gunnar) who will always be by his side.

The rest of this series focuses mostly on typical high school experiences. Yes, Double Feature has the main characters performing as extras in a zombie film...but that's about as "unique" as it gets. However, The Elephant of Surprise is a bit different in that regard. Russel is still dealing with the same type of issues he has been -- romance, friendship-- but now he's found himself falling for a guy named Wade who follows a path of life called freeganism. Him and the other freegans essentially squat in empty houses, find food in the dumpster, and live by the philosophy that material possessions are not that important and nobody should live with money as their main goal. Russel is fascinated, yet completely aware this could be some sort of "cult" type of mentality. He appreciates what Wade believes in, but he's more interested in being with Wade than becoming a freegan. The truly "unique" aspect of this storyline comes near the end of the novel, so I don't want to spoil anything! It's certainly interesting...even if most teens couldn't say they've dealt with anything similar.

Finally, I liked that Kevin made more of a comeback in this novel. It's always interesting to learn more about him...as we do get more insight into his actions and attitudes in Double Feature. I just wish we could have a novel from his point of view, or another Russel book featuring more of him.

Overall, the Russel Middlebrook novels are an enjoyable, realistic series that read quicker than you might wish! And hopefully I didn't spoil anything too big in my reviews. I tried to focus on generalities!

13 comments:

Erika said...

Double Feature sounds so creative! :)

Aylee said...

Huh, a double feature, but for a books instead of for movies? For some reason, this idea has never occurred to me. But I like it! Russel sounds like a great character, for sure! I definitely feel for him and what he has to deal with with unsupportive parents. Heh, I've definitely never red a story about freegans before, so that would be unique in itself! Curious about the ending of book 4 now... Nicely reviewed, Lauren! This was a good overview.

Liviania said...

Kevin definitely makes a comeback in the end.

....Petty Witter said...

Loving the covers of both the books you feature.

Double Features certainly stands out as a fun read. It's just a shame it sounds a tiny bit repetitive.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I don't think you spoiled, but you did give me a reason to really check out the series. I really haven't heard much about these and they sound pretty good. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings said...

I have seen the Elephant Surprise book around it sounds cute. I would like to read the zombie book just because it sounds different and fun. Thanks for introducing me to this author!

Bellas Shelf said...

These books sound fabulous! I heard about the movie starring Nikki Blonsky I love her. She s so cute and fun.
I love books that are packaged uniquely or come as DOuble Headers. They add that something special to the mix. Ya know?

Hilda K said...

Honestly, these books sound so weird! I might not pick this series soon, but I'll keep them in mind if I'm in sudden need of something unique and different! :) I'm glad that you quite liked this series, Lauren! Don't worry, you don't spoil too much! <3

Awesome review, hun! :)

Jasprit said...

I've not heard of this series before, but it sounds like a lot of fun and I'm glad that it really worked out for you Lauren. Thanks for putting it on my radar! :)

Brandi Kosiner said...

Glad it is unique and a good addition

Medeia Sharif said...

These all look interesting. I read one Hartinger book awhile ago and I have one or two of his other books, but not these.

Giselle said...

I haven't hear of this series before but it looks neat. I like how it's two in one! :)

Rachel said...

Kind of sounds cool to be an extra in a zombie flick. Although, it probably is boring and uncomfortable with all the makeup and waiting you probably have to do. Still, I do love zombie tales, lol! Never heard of a freegan before, but I have to say the thought makes me laugh and grosses me out at the same time. I don't know why anyone would choose to eat out of a dumpster, but to each his own. Lol!

Russel sounds like a sweet guy trying to find his way in life. Glad you enjoyed the series, Lauren. Great reviews.