Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Love Drugged by James Klise

Title: Love Drugged
Author: James Klise
Publisher: Flux
Release date: September 8th 2010
Pages: 306
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA - thanks!
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Fifteen-year-old Jamie Bates has a simple strategy for surviving high school: fit in, keep a low profile, and above all, protect his biggest secret--he's gay. But when a classmate discovers the truth, a terrified Jamie does all he can to change who he is. At first, it's easy. Everyone notices when he starts hanging out with Celia Gamez, the richest and most beautiful girl in school. And when he steals an experimental new drug that's supposed to "cure" his attraction to guys, Jamie thinks he's finally going to have a "normal" life.
But as the drug's side effects worsen and his relationship with Celia heats up, Jamie begins to realize that lying and using could shatter the fragile world of deception that he's created-and hurt the people closest to him.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I love the idea for this novel! A drug that could "cure" homosexuality - that's crazy; scary, even. The idea is fascinating, and I was very excited to read Love Drugged. Sadly, though, the novel didn't turn out as great as I'd hoped - I had issues with the characters and the plot development, which made it hard for me to really enjoy this novel.

The characters were my main problem with Love Drugged - they're severely underdeveloped. I never got a clear grasp on Jamie as a person - to me, there wasn't much to his personality other than being gay. Of course that's the main focus of the novel, but I would have preferred a more complex character with actual interests and character traits. The same goes for Celia: she didn't have enough of a personality and seemed to just personify the beautiful, popular girl. She seemed more like a plot device than an actual person. Wes is an interesting character, but I don't think his experience is fully developed, and we don't know enough about his situation for me to really take anything from his storyline. The family storyline is just as underdeveloped: the set-up is interesting, but stays very one-dimensional because it isn't elaborated on enough.

One thing that bothered me about the novel is its focus on sex. That feels very strange to write, since I usually appreciate books that address sex openly and honestly. In Love Drugged, though, it felt overemphasized to me. The only way that Jamie is characterized as gay, and the only way he wants to "turn" straight, is in relation to sex; the relationship aspect is never addressed. It bugged me that the only problems Jamie and Celia have in their relationship stem from Jamie's refusal to have sex with her, especially because they're only freshman in high school. The issue of sex should of course be addressed within this context, but I had hoped that Jamie's homosexuality had been discussed in the context of relationships as well.

I enjoyed the plot in the beginning - seeing how Jamie is dragged into this relationship, and how that works within the context of the "cure" is interesting to read about. However, over the course of the novel, things got a little too crazy. Especially the ending - what happens at Celia's house - seemed melodramatic and unrealistic to me. The happy end that follows, too, seemed too happy and dramatic.

Despite all of these issues, I still really enjoyed exploring the idea of Love Drugged. Even though the novel is far from perfect, the message is an important one. I do recommend Love Drugged, if not for the plot and characters, simply for the things it will force you to think about.


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