Book Review: The Elephant of Surprise (Russel Middlebrook #4) by Brent Hartinger

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.

Release Date: March 30, 2013
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from author

I really enjoyed this book!  What a fun read.  The Elephant of Surprise was light-hearted, funny, and sweetly optimistic.  I loved Russel's voice and his outlook on life.  I read this book during a rough time and it really perked up my spirits.

Russel is the narrator (boy, I just love a first-person POV) and I really enjoyed seeing the world through his eyes.  He's got to be one of the most positive, endearing characters I've ever encountered.  Russel and his closest friends have coined a phrase: "the elephant of surprise" meaning that things never turn out how you expect.  People aren't who you think they are and act much differently than you would expect them to.  The crux of the book is how Russel and his friends react to the surprises life throws at them.  

The love story aspect of this book was very sweet and well-handled.  It was definitely appropriate for YA literature.  I'm really happy I read The Elephant of Surprise and would definitely read Brent Hartinger again.   


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