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Russel came out of the closet to his friends and classmates in the past year. This honesty cost him his boyfriend Kevin, who was not ready to come out to his jock friends yet. Kevin's callous attitude towards Russel had hurt him deeply but he has since moved on to Otto, a sweet guy that he met at summer camp, who happens to live eight hundred miles away. Russel has a great support system with his friends Gunnar, his girlfriend Em and Min, who happens to be bisexual herself and knows what Russel is going through since she was in a relationship with someone who was not ready to come out either. Russel thinks that everything in his life is going well and is looking forward to a Thanksgiving visit from Otto when his parents confront him about being gay. When he admits that he is gay, their reaction shocks him and has a profound effect on his relationship with Otto. He is reeling from his parents response when Kevin has his own announcement that also has consequences for Russel.
Split Screen tells Russel's story against the backdrop of a movie set where Russel and his friends are the extras for a zombie movie. Once his story is done, the book flips over to tell Min's story that takes place in conjunction with Russel's. Some of the dialogue is repeated in both stories but the missing pieces of the story are explained while reading Min's story. There is more to Kevin's decision to come out than originally conveyed during Russel's story. This format could just be a gimmick if not handled properly, but the author really pulls of the parallel stories by writing two fleshed-out, likable characters.
Min has decided to be a zombie in the movie in order to meet new people. She is comfortable with who she is and has the full support of her parents when it comes to her sexual orientation. Min hits it off the first day of filming with fellow zombie Leah. Leah is not as comfortable being a lesbian as Min is being bisexual. Even though the girls really like each other and have a lot in common, Leah makes it clear that she likes her life the way it is and her friends will not understand. Min is not sure she is comfortable becoming involved with another girl that wants to keep their relationship a secret.
Hartinger's characters are well-defined and sure of their beliefs. He does not use typical stereotypes or clichés to describe what these characters are experiencing. The issues that they face are realistic and there's no easy way out that ties everything together. Russel and Min's decisions have ramifications for all of those involved. The author's choice to have very different parental responses was a nice way to show both kinds of support.
Russel and Min deal not only with issues relating gay/bisexual teens; they also negotiate long-distance relationships, school issues, parental relationships and dealing with stereotypes are all topics that are dealt with. The story is for grades nine and up. There are sexual references.
© 2008 Amy Ridley
Amy Ridley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University.
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