Love Drugged by James Klise (Flux/Llewellyn)

Buy it now from Outwrite Bookstore  or from our store – Love Drugged

Many gays and lesbians, including the author of Love
Drugged, and admittedly, including myself, would have at one point willingly
taken a pill if it could cure homosexuality.
To frightened teens, that sentiment makes a lot of sense.  Who would want to put up with the bullying
and degradation?  Who wants to suffer
through seeing images in the media claiming “God hates fags” or listening to politicians
stating that you don’t deserve equal rights because of something you had no
control over?  Certainly many gay teens
fantasize about such a drug.  In Klise’s novel,
his character, Jamie Bates, gets to be the first person faced with the

As members of school service club, Jamie knows Celia, the
prettiest, richest girl in school.  She
wants Jamie to be her boyfriend.  It
happens that Celia’s father, Dr. Gamez, is a wealthy and powerful
pharmacologist trying to develop Rehomoline, a blue pill that “cures”
homosexuality.  It will be rather obvious
to the reader, long before it’s obvious to Jamie, that Dr. Gamez can tell Jamie
is gay, and that he’s doing his darnedest to get Jamie to illicitly grab some
Rehomoline and start taking it.  Thus,
Dr. Gamez, who was never able to win approval from the FDA to test the drug,
gets himself a highly illegal case study.

Klise is careful not to condemn medical drugs as a whole
while showing why Jamie might think pills will solve his problems. Jamie’s best
friend, Wes, has his life greatly improved by Ritalin.  Jamie’s grandparents need daily medications
to keep them healthy.  Some of the girls
at Jamie’s school are on birth control pills with their parents’ full knowledge
and approval.  However, Klise is clear
that Dr. Gamez’ goals are insidious.
This is not something like an anti-depressant that happens to kill a
person’s sex drive.  Rehomoline is a
dangerous drug that produces a myriad of frightening side effects with the goal
of destroying not just a sex drive, but any kind of gay male desire or
attraction.  It also causes headaches,
muscle aches, severely impaired vision, violent muscle spasms, and the
hemorrhaging of blood and brain fluid through the nose.  However, this is perfectly preferable to Dr.
Gamez than allowing Jamie to be gay.
Furthermore, what’s horribly sad, yet believable, is that it’s also preferable
to Jamie.

Jamie is given some flaws.
For one, he does steal the pills, and moreover, he steals money from his
parents and grandparents.  He may be the
hero of the story and the one with the most at stake, but it can’t be
overlooked that Klise presents another victim: Celia.  Jamie wants to be straight so he basically
lies to Celia so he can date her, performing his own experiment to see if
making out with the prettiest girl in school could make him hetero.  Worse, Dr. Gamez had no compunction about
using his daughter to gain access to someone he could experiment on
himself.  I think if people realized how
many girlfriends, wives, husbands, families, etc are vastly hurt by the fact
that gay people are forced to pretend to be something they’re not because of
societal oppression, a lot of opinions might be changed.  Klise hints at exactly the kind of damage
that could happen.

The book is not a hundred percent perfect with minor
problems with believability (why does Celia happen to mention that her birth
date is the security code to her house?) and somewhat unremarkable voice and
characterization (Jamie’s parents don’t have quite enough substance).  However, it is a book that is tremendously
important.  I hope school libraries will
choose it for their shelves as now, more than ever, its message of hope and
understanding is one to which young people desperately need to be exposed. 

Reviewed by Gavin Atlas 

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