Rummanah Aasi
  James Klise is a teacher-librarian in Illinois. His debut novel, Love Drugged, was selected as a Stonewall Honoree by the American Library Association. The Stonewall Book Award is awarded to books who exceptionally merit the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience. You can find the list of award winning and honoree books here.

Description: Jamie doesn't feel normal. While boys his age are attracted to girls, he is dismayed by his attraction to boys. When a beautiful girl named Celia shows an interest in him, Jamie feels he can try to feel normal or at least try to pretend. Things get trickier when he discovers Celia’s father is a doctor who develops behavior-modification drugs and is experimenting with one that will “cure” homosexuality. Determined to find his way to normalcy, Jamie steals the drug and he is willing to deal with the side effects even if it costs his life.

Review: Love Drugged is a chilling read because the issues it addresses isn't far fetched given the latest suicides amongst teens who have either been ridiculed or labeled because of their sexuality.  Jamie Bates may seem like your average teen on the outside, but deep down he knows he is far from it. Instead of being attracted to girls like "normal boys", he constantly finds other guys attractive. To the reader his attraction to other guys could be a huge hint that he's gay, but Jamie does not want to come to this conclusion. In a world where phrases like "homo" and "fag" can be thrown around jokingly, guys like Jamie fear it, understanding the torment and consequences that would result if their peers knew of their sexuality.
  At first, Jamie tries to find solace with his homosexuality in an online forum, being able to discuss his interests in anonymity. Unfortunately, his escape is short lived once he discovers a fellow user just so happens to go to the same school. Panicked and paranoid, Jamie tries to find a way to shake his freak label and become normal. His answer comes in the form of his fellow service club member, Celia Gamez. Extremely gorgeous, rich, and smart, Celia is the girl every guy would want but she sets her eyes on Jamie. With her flirtatious manner towards him, Jamie takes this as an opportunity to be put on the straight path. Though he consciously knows inside that he harbors no attraction towards Celia, Jamie seeks comfort in her friendship. His loyalties and intentions change when he finds out that Celia's father is a doctor who is working on an experimental drug called Rehomoline, which is meant to suppress ones feelings toward the same sex.
   In a moment of panic along with Celia's growing frustration in wanting to become more intimate, Jamie takes this second chance to live like every other guy and steals, takes the drug without knowing the side effects that will ensue. Before he knows it, Jamie's relationship with Celia, his parents, and his friends veer in a direction that he never expected. His actions become completely out of character, and the drugs begin to have serious consequences, but all will be resolved once he becomes normal and straight, right? How Jamie starts to unravel and faces the consequences of his actions is the crux of the novel.
  Reading Love Drugged is like witnessing a car crash. You immediately know things are not going to go well for Jamie, but you can't help but continue to read to see how far he is willing to go to feel normal. Klise, who is a gay teacher-librarian in Illinois, successfully captures the voice of a teen who desparately wants to fit in with his peers and the terrible anxiety of discovering the truth of his sexual identity. The story leaned sometimes toward the melodramatic and the writing was a bit clumsy. Most of the adult characters are kinda one dimensional and the ending did wrap up too neatly. The reason why I gave this book 4 stars instead of 3 is because I think the cautionary tale on the sinister personal and social ramifications of medical technology’s attempt to change one’s sexual orientation is worthwhile to discuss and out weigh's the book's weak points. Love Drugged would be a good starting point for a class and gay-straight alliance discussion in dealing with bullying and acceptance.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language along with homophobic slurs in the novel. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Thinking Straight by Robin Reardon or What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson
7 Responses
  1. Wow, this sounds fascinating and disturbing. I like that there are more and more books about teens struggling with their sexuality. It's nice for teens in real life who are dealing with those issues to have something to relate to.


  2. Jenny Says:

    Whoa. Just reading your review was upsetting and I want to reach in and tell Jamie that there's nothing wrong with the way he feels! This does have all the makings of an epic car crash, but like you said, I can't help but want to stare and know what happens to Jamie.


  3. Annette Says:

    Haven't heard of this one. Thanks for turning me on to an Illinois author!


  4. We Heart YA Says:

    Hm. Good premise. We're sorry that it wasn't pulled off more smoothly, but glad that this type of book is out there!


  5. Alison: It is. The dystopian slant is eerily familiar and disturbing. Though the book has bee noted to be the cliched GLBT book where sexuality is the problem, I think it's important book for those who are going through the same motions as Jamie.

    Jenny: I know, right? There are moments when I wanted to reach out and hug him. I think teens who feel left out regardless of their sexual orientation will connect with Jamie.

    Anne: I had no idea either until Brian Katcher, the author of Almost Perfect, mentioned him. Kinda cool, huh?

    We Heart YA: While the writing isn't stellar, there is a lot of food for thought.


  6. Missie Says:

    OMG, Rummanah! My heart completely goes out to Jaime. To think he is so desperate to fit in he is will to steal and take drugs just to suppress who he is.

    I think when a novel like this wraps up too nicely, like how you described, it is done more out of hope that things could work out.


  7. I love the context of this book - issue stories are a favourite of mine, and this sounds like it could fit the bill. I have to be honest though...ribbons and bows for an ending just don't work for me. I like it to feel real, no matter what! Fabulous thoughts :)


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