Title: The thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know
Author: Brent Hartinger
Series: Russell Middlebrook #5
Release Date: December 15th 2014
Age Group: New Adult
Genre: Gay Romance
“I guess this was what they meant by a loss of innocence. Who knew?”
Russel Middlebrook is twenty-three years old, gay, and living in trendy Seattle, but life isn’t keeping up with the hype. Most of his friends have a direction in life—either ruthlessly pursuing their careers or passionately embracing their own aimlessness. But Russel is stuck in place. All he knows is that crappy jobs, horrible dates, and pointless hook-ups just aren’t cutting it anymore.
What’s the secret? What does everyone else know that he doesn’t?
Enter Kevin, Russel’s perfect high school boyfriend. Could rekindling an old flame be the thing Russel needs to get his life back on track? Or maybe the answer lies in a new friend, an eccentric screenwriter named Vernie Rose, who seems plenty wise. Or what the hell? Maybe Russel will find some answers by joining his best friend Gunnar’s crazy search for the legendary Bigfoot!
One way or another, Russel is determined to learn the all-important secret to life, even if it’s a thing he doesn’t even know he doesn’t know.
Author Brent Hartinger first made a splash writing books for teens. The Thing I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know, Hartinger’s first book for older readers, is just as much of a page-turner as his earlier works, with plenty of his trademark irreverent humor. But now his books have grown up along with his readers, exploring the issues of new adults, especially the complicated matter of love and sex.
The thing I Didn’t know I Didn’t Know is Russell Middlebrook’s story, told in the first person, as he attempts to unravel his thoughts about life and his place in the world. Normally I enjoy the closeness which this style of narration gives me to the protagonist, but Russell is so wrapped up in his own self-loathing that I found liking him difficult. I did wonder whether I would have felt any differently if I had read the previous books in the series . . but I had no inclination to find out! However, maybe it was just that his experiences and my own are so far apart. He is a 23-Year-old homosexual man, living on a houseboat in Seattle; I am a thirty something heterosexual woman living in a terraced house in the UK.
I hoped I would find some inspiration in the selection of friends Russell is surrounded by, but I think the only one I really liked was Vernie, the ageing screenwriter whose life Russell saves. Perhaps because she has experience, she is the only character who has accepted life, even though she has her own regrets. Everyone else just appears to be parodies of themselves. There is Gunnar, who developed an iPhone app and lives off his fortune, but avoids his problems through his various obsessions, including the search for Bigfoot. Russell’s other housemate, Min, is a scientist who is exploring a ploy amorous relationship and Kevin, Russell’s first love, has returned to Seattle and wants to be ‘friends’. Yet the characters who I was most offended by, were Jake and Amanda, the owners of Bake, where Russell works. They clearly represent Russell’s view of (heterosexual) marriage and are constantly bickering and unhappy. Although I understand that the author is a homosexual man, writing about a homosexual young man, this does not mean that this view of Jake and Amanda’s relationship should be so limited.
The thing I Didn’t know I Didn’t Know continues Russell’s journey of self-discovery, with a little romance thrown in. Although I struggled to finish the book I know that there are plenty of readers who will empathise with Russell, as he tries to find his place in the world.