Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Elephant of Surprise (The Russel Middlebrook Series, Excerpt) by Brent Hartinger

"Marsupials. You know: animals with pouches—like kangaroos and koala bears."

"I know what a marsupial is," Min said.

"The water opossum. That's the only one where both the males and females have pouches. Well, I guess male Tasmanian tigers also had pouches, but they're supposed to be extinct."

She kept staring at me. "What exactly does that have to do with anything?"

"Well, you were just talking about how male and female lions were different. And about how wildebeests—I mean wildebeest—use swarm intelligence."

"Yes, but that's because we were looking at lions and wildebeest. We're not looking at water opossums. I mean, this is the African savannah. Aren't water opossums from Mexico?"

Were they? I didn't know. I'd only known that bit about male water opossums having pouches from a special on TV a few nights before, but I didn't remember the narrator saying where they lived. So not only did Min know more than I did about every other animal, she even knew more than I did about the one animal that I'd thought I'd known something about.

She smirked. "Feeling a little insecure today, are we?"

I've already admitted that if Min could be something of a know-it-all, I could be a little insecure—at least in a certain light and from a certain angle.

"What about you?" I said.

"What about me?" she said.

"Something's up. What's going on?" I couldn't come right out and accuse Min of being more know-it-all-y than usual, but it was kind of implied.

She turned and headed into this fake cave-tunnel that led to the next cluster of animal displays. I followed. Inside the cavern, there was this stretch of glass panels that showed African termites in their nest, sort of like a giant ant farm. I think the idea was that we were supposed to be walking through one of those giant termite mounds you see on the African savannah. It wasn't bad, actually.

Min lingered at the termite display. Behind the glass, termites plodded. They're slower than ants: they don't scurry.

"It's Leah," she said.

Min is bisexual, and Leah was her girlfriend who went to a different school. It was February, and the two of them had been going out forever, at least since November.

"What about her?" I said, concerned.

"She's hiding something from me. Keeping secrets."

This bears some explanation. Back in November, when Min and Leah had first started going out, they'd had this big conflict because Leah didn’t want to come out as a lesbian, at least not in high school. Leah knew she was a lesbian—she wasn't conflicted or "questioning"—but she also wanted a "normal" high school experience. She just didn't want to have to stand up for herself or be the center of attention. For a time, this had been a real sore point for Min because (a) she's definitely a stand-up-for-yourself kind of person, and (b) she'd gone through this disastrous relationship earlier last year with this girl who refused to come out, and Min had vowed never to do anything like that again. But eventually Min had come around to the idea that different people, even people who like each other, can sometimes come to different conclusions about things.

"How do you know?" I said to Min, about the secrets Leah was supposedly keeping.

The Elephant of Surprise

Book 4 in the Lambda Award-winning Russel Middlebrook Series!

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.

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 includes Hartinger’s trademark combination of humor and romance, angst and optimism. Before the story is 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.

Buy Now @ Amazon & @ Smashwords

Genre - Young Adult/Gay Lit

Rating – PG13

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