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If you could change who you are, would you? Should you? This is both the tag line and the central theme to James Klise’s debut novel, Love Drugged (Flux).
The story follows fifteen year old Jamie Bates, a high school student who is desperate to conceal his biggest secret – that he is gay. After a boy at school learns of his sexuality, Jamie makes the decision to pursue a relationship with the rich and beautiful Celia Gomez to throw off any other suspicions. Jamie soon comes to realize that no matter how many lies he tells, his true feelings will not go away.
As his lies spiral out of control and the side effects of the drugs begin to take their toll, Jamie’s carefully constructed world begins to crumble, threatening to ruin everything, and hurt the people he cares for most. One way or another, something has to change.
Things are rounded up nicely in the end, if not a little too quickly, bringing a satisfying and bright ending to Jamie’s struggle to be ‘normal.’ The moral of this novel is quite clear and Klise expresses this himself in the author’s note: “That’s why I wrote this book. It’s normal to want to ‘feel normal,’ whatever normal means. Especially in high school.”
One of the most accomplished aspects of this terrific debut is Klise’s portrayal of the emotions that people go through while being in the closet. The fear, the confusion and indeed the feeling of not really belonging will definitely resonate with readers who are or have been in a similar situation.
Love Drugged is a dramatized coming out story that many teens will relate. With a rather fairytale-like ending, the book shows that the most damaging lies can be the ones that we tell ourselves and that after we come to terms with who we really are, there is an opportunity for things to get better.
There may be those who question the need for yet another book about coming out, preferring to see books that move past centering on actually being gay to stories where being gay is just an aspect of a character. While moving forward is important, coming out will continue to be an issue that LGBT youth will face. Hopefully by making books like this one accessible, it will give some teens a sense of hope and help them feel ‘normal.’ This alone makes Love Drugged a worthy finalist for this years Lambda Literary award.
By James Klise
Paperback, 9780738721750, 304ppp.