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Review: The Elephant of Surprise by Brent Hartinger & Giveaway

Saturday, March 23, 2013
3 Stars: A Good Read
Series: Russel Middlebrook #4
Paperback: 239 Pages
Publication: January 10, 2013 by Buddha Kitty Books

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. In this latest book in the Russel Middlebrook series, 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?

I'm really glad that Hartinger wrote this book because it gives us the closure needed for the series. While Russ and Otto found their happy ending in book three, it felt as though things with Kevin were left unresolved. Yes, I could easily see Russ graduate without ever finding out about Kevin's sacrifice, but it didn't feel quite right. I also wanted to see Kevin find his own happiness because, while he was a jerk in book one, he did feel bad about it, and he's grown a lot as a character.

I do have mixed feelings about Kevin. I don't want to forgive him for being such a jerk, but at the same time I understand that he's matured (hopefully into a better person). Nevertheless, I was secretly hoping for them to get back together after Russ and Otto realize that they're more friends than boyfriends. And, okay, while I found his freegan way of life interesting, I never got any good vibes from Wade. It always seemed as though he wasn't going to commit, and not just as a boyfriend. You get a better feel for his character the more you learn about him.

What has really stood out to me from beginning to end and what I appreciate most is the friendship of Russ, Min, and Gunnar. They're a diverse group of friends with unique personalities; somehow, they all fit nicely together, and hey. When one of you asks the others to help with a break in or walk straight into the lair of potential terrorists, then yeah you've got a strong friendship. They accept each other, flaws and all, with little complaint or outward judgment and can count on each other for support. These are friends that everyone should have.

Such friendship is especially important in a trying time like adolescent. Sure, it's not all the sparks and rage that Hollywood makes it out to be, but Russ and his friends do make mistakes. It was a bit odd to me how many love interests Russ goes through over the series. While there are different plots to each book, however, love is on Russ's mind a lot of the time, so that may be the reason why it seems like so much more. A good metaphor that Russ and his friends use to describe various life-changing events that take place is "The Elephant of Surprise." I'd talk more about it, but that'll lead into spoilers. You have to read the book to fully appreciate the metaphor.

A copy was provided by Brent Hartinger for review.

Russel Middlebrook Series

#1 Geography Club (read my review here)
#2 The Order of the Poison Oak (read my review here)
#3 Double Feature (read my review here)

Brent  Hartinger has kindly offered a copy of The Elephant of Surprise for a giveaway to a reader at Imaginary Reads. The winner can choose between a hardcopy (provided he or she has a U.S. mailing address) or an e-copy (open to international readers).

Giveaway ends April 6th
Fill out the form below to enter
a Rafflecopter giveaway
2 comments on "Review: The Elephant of Surprise by Brent Hartinger & Giveaway"
  1. This is actually the first I have heard of this series. It seems best to start from the beginning. Going by the cover I would have thought they were older.

  2. I was kinda mad at Brent when I read what Kevin said to Russel in the gazebo, just after Russel scaped from his house when we was grounded by his parents. I haven’t read much of the 3rd book since then, now that I have a clue what will happen with Kevin, I can continue reading happily.


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