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Literature / The Order of the Poison Oak

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The Order of the Poison Oak is the sequel to Geography Club and the second book in the Russel Middlebrook series by Brent Hartinger.

Russel and his friends successfully set up a gay-straight alliance at his school, but they also have to deal with subtle (and not so subtle) homophobia through the school year. Russel, Min and Gunnar are eager to get away from their hometown for the summer and they decided to become counselors at a children's summer camp. From there, Russel gets tested by his unruly campers, obsessed with a hunky camp counselor and finds himself testing the limits of his frienships as well as becoming comfortable in his own skin.

This page contains unmarked spoilers for Geography Club


The Order Of The Poison Oak provides example of:

  • Anything That Moves: Web Bastian, who hooks up with both Min and Russel. When questioned on his sexuality directly by Russel, he shrugs and says it's just sex.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Ian, part of the burn survivor campers, leads the crew in mischief and tormenting Russel.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Downplayed in the case of Web, though he is a major jerkass and driven by sex. By the end of the book, he's hooked up with both Min and Russel and Russel narrates that he also made his way through the female camp counselors and rumored to hook up with a male one.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Emily, or "Em" to Gunnar who is just as weird as he is except she's also a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Russel's summer camp experience is fraught with drama, from his campers and his friends. By the end, he finally gains his kids' respect as a leader, makes up with his friends, gains a new boyfriend, and learns that he doesn't need to hide his sexuality from anyone. In the climax, he's even brave enough to save one of his kids from a forest fire.
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  • Gayngst: Part of the reason Russel decided to skip town with his friends for the summer was due to the homophobia that he's been dealing with since he came out and the school's gay-straight alliance was formed.
  • Hotter and Sexier: While staying in the constraints of YA fiction, this book is noticeably steamier than Geography Club with skinny-dipping scenes and implied sex acts being performed. Russel also describes Web's body as gaze-y as possible.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Pointedly averted with the child burn survivors that attended the camp, as well as Otto who was burned on his face and has a burn scar. All are realized characters and all do not want to be seen as this trope. Otto encourages Russel to actually be harder on the kids, that way they don't see Russel as being patronizing to them.
  • Irony: Russel and his friends get away from their hometown due to the drama only to encounter more at the summer camp.
  • Love Triangle: Between Russel, Min, and Web. Both notice Web and are instantly attracted but Min insists that Web is straight (indicating that she's been meeting up with Web "off-screen" while Russel was dealing with his plot), and even hooked up with him. Russel is dejected but then it later turned out that Web was also into Russel (when asked about his sexuality, Web gives a "who cares" reaction) and they hooked up while skinny-dipping leaving Russel feeling guilty. After Web's true colors were revealed, Otto comes in to make it a love square.
  • The Matchmaker: Russel wants to set Em with Gunnar as they're so similar but Gunnar wants to desperate avoid any contact with a girl due to him embarrassing himself in front of Kimberly in Geography Club. Russel's attempt to pair them up by getting them alone in a boathouse is an Epic Fail as Gunnar does exactly what he thought would happen by slipping on bird droppings and falling into the water.
  • Oblivious to Love: Otto is obviously into Russel, but Russel too enamored by Web to notice until the end of the book.
  • Pants-Pulling Prank: Russel is on the receiving end of this as Ian pants him in front of crush.
  • Rejection Affection: Gunnar tries desperately not to fall for Emily, especially after the events of the last book with Kimberly went sour.
  • Straight Gay: Otto, a burn survior camp counselor, who falls in love with Russel.
  • Summer Campy: The setting, which has Russel, Min, and Gunnar being camp counselors to young burn survivors.
  • Transparent Closet: Again, despite Russel's best efforts, most people can assume he's gay much like in Geography Club
  • Uncool Undies: Russel gets pantsed in front of his crush, revealing his white briefs. Russel alludes in this book and in Geography Club that briefs are his preferred choice in underpants, but feels somewhat self-conscious about it since the popular jocks wore boxers.


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