What do zombies, cheerleaders, teen love and smart-mouthed bisexual Asian girls have in common? Brent Hartinger‘s latest young adult novel, Split Screen! In this second sequel to Hartinger’s excellent novel about gay teens, The Geography Club (2003), queer teens Russel Middlebrook and Min Wei work as extras on a zombie movie called Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies. Half of the story is told from Russel’s point of view, and the other half is told from Min’s. (You just flip the book over when you’re done with one side of the tale and then begin reading the other one.)Sixteen-year-old Min, who is an out bisexual Chinese-American teen (wish there were more of those when I was a Chinese-American teen!), soon finds herself drawn to a cute ex-cheerleader named Leah who is also working as an extra and happens to have great fashion sense (a military-esque jacket with epaulets is a key motivator in an early scene). Unfortunately, Leah is closeted. At her school, she’s friends with the popular cheerleader crowd, and that’s far from Min’s comfort zone (Min, endearingly, has recently dyed her hair purple).
If you haven’t read a YA novel recently, why not? Sure, I may be well beyond my teen years, but retreating back to adolescence from the safe vantage point of adulthood is kind of a treat sometimes. And when I was a teen, there really weren’t any YA novels about gay teens, so it’s even more fun to read about young gay teens today. If you haven’t read Geography Club, check it out for a thoroughly updated version of coming-out that will really show you how far we’ve come since the days of The Breakfast Club. (I also recommend Julie Anne Peters‘ great books about young lesbians, by the way. My faves: Keeping You a Secret and Far From Xanadu.)
In Hartinger’s previous two books about the adventures of Russel and Min, Min dated both a girl and a boy. I was thrilled that she got some good time with another girl in this episode, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else comes across her plate in the future. Hartinger says he’ll continue writing books about Russel and Min as long as people want to read them, so what are you waiting for? Go read this one!