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Love Is the Drug Hardcover – September 30, 2014
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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Longlisted for the National Book Award
A Kirkus Best Book of the Year
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This thought-provoking near-future story is a distinctive and successful blend of thriller, love story, and YA coming-of-age story. While some of the characters are close to two-dimensional, the principals are fully realized and compelling. The prose is lovely, often almost poetic.
Above all else, this is a story about relationships, familial and otherwise, and readers may well end up reexamining and reevaluating some of their own relationships.
Dear Fellow Sci-fi Fans,
One of my favorite things about flu-virus apocalypse themes, is that it could so easily be reality. Human beings aren’t really all that hard to kill, we just camouflage how easily we die with how well we kill. Humans are great at killing what we perceive as threats. This is proven quite well in Love is the Drug.
QUOTE: “Morality is something that falls from your pockets when you climb a ladder.”
When I first started the book I was worried that I wouldn’t make it to the end of the book. The ratings for this novel were so up in down, it was as if everyone who read Love is the Drug never read the same book, and perhaps this is true. We all take away something different from a book. I, personally, learned a lot of valuable life lessons from the world that Alaya Dawn Johnson created. Maybe a few of you are scoffing that I sometimes take life lessons from fiction, but it’s true that the author packed Love is the Drug with a few philosophies that we could all benefit and learn from.
We all know the saying, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This book proves that it doesn’t matter what sort of government leads a county, people in powerful positions always have something to gain or something to hide. To put one’s absolute faith in – and to never question – any government made up of humans is naïve. We all make mistakes, don’t we? It serves that those whom are higher up on the political ladder make the nosiest mistakes of us all and have more to gain by keeping those mistakes quite.
QUOTE: “You’re an iconoclast whose highest aspiration is K Street. You’re a Black DC girl determined to run away to a California suburb with barely any black people. You have a heart, Bird, but you only use your head. You try as hard as you can to be conventional and unoriginal and unthreatening, but somehow you always fail. Just a little bit. Because you know better.”
Not only did I learn that it’s healthy to question authority, but it’s also unhealthy to be someone you’re not, even when it is to please someone else. This is something that really struck close to home. I come from a religious family in The Deep South. My father is so fanatical about religion that nothing and nobody is more important. He’s also great at burning bridges with people who want a life that isn’t dictated by religion, because then he wouldn’t be in control. Suffice to say, I know how it feels to do anything to get a parents approval and still fall short every day.
I imagine the reason I could relate to Emily’s aka “Bird’s” need to please is because of my own relationship with my father. Nothing is more important that success to Carol Bird, something that she has hammered into Bird since she lectured her on the importance of picking appropriate friends in kindergarten. It’s no wonder Bird winds up with friends she can barely tolerate and a boyfriend she mostly keep around because he’s the only thing her mother ever really approved of about her. It’s crazy how easily it is to see something like an unhealthy need to please in one person (fictional or otherwise), but so difficult to admit to having the same problem in my own life.
At the beginning of Love is the Drug, it is clear Emily never questioned authority and she never tip-toed the line. She was a sheep following the masses, a drone following instructions to keep the peace until she could escape to college. Slowly, Emily begins to evolve as she pieces the puzzles together of her missing memory with the sometimes prep school drug dealer and conspiracy theorist, Coffee. She grows to love her real self and finds it easier to have meaningful relationships when she is true to herself.
Watching Emily grow into someone whom is confident and happy with herself really hit me – it can be worse for not only my family, but for me to keep the peace and live a lie than to be honest and proud about who I am. It is easy to see that while Emily is battling to survive in a world where the US government would rather kill her than let her expose their secrets and a flu virus is quickly decimating the population, her biggest battle is with her own self-preservation.
I easily gave this book a five star rating and I hope Johnson plans to continue to write more epidemic themed novels. Love is the Drug was riveting and surprisingly sexy. I recommend it to all readers, even if it is outside of your comfort zone. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
❤One Curvy Blogger
Read more reviews and bookish posts @ onecurvyblogger.com
What Alaya Dawn Johnson does is paint for us a very disturbing tale of Washington DC values. Her main character Emily Bird attends a high end prep school in DC. She is the daughter of extremely rich, DC academic elitists who together invent a virus to be used as a biological-weapon, but the disease is accidentally unleashed on the west coast and decimates millions and millions of people as it quickly spreads through the US and the rest of the world, starting a war when the US blames another small country for its own mishandling.
However, as a Washington elitist and a Game Maker's daughter, Emily does not worry about the rest of the world, she does not sacrifice to bring down the tyranny, nor does she act heroically to stop the spread of the disease. Instead, she gets the vaccine and continues to live within her social sphere the way many young women spent their days in a king's Court back in days of yore, conniving for personal gain and surviving intrigue for personal survival and the personal survival of family members. Emily, not knowing her parents are the perps, investigates where the disease might come from, but she does so without any worry or fear for those outside her own circle of DC friends and DC family. (Arguably not all of her family members are top elitists, but they are still living comfortably in the most high end city on the planet.) The only concern she feels for anyone outside of her circle is her concern for Stanford where she is thinking of going to college, but even then her concern is not for the people dying at Stanford so much as her concern that Stanford as an institution might be shut down and she won't get to go there to get away from her mother's control.
Once her own family survives and Emily discovers her parent's secret, she does nothing with the information outside of saving her own boyfriend. That's the point the reader fully realizes that the whole apocalypse serves as a backdrop to her family struggles rather than being the truth of her heroism. She sits on the information and justifies her parents' role in killing millions of people because they are academics and we, the readers, are taught that DC academic elitists are untouchable because that's just their job and they, like most DC academic elitists, share no culpability for their stupid mistakes or attempts to hide their stupid mistakes. It's their job not to question the ethics of their work as they live high on the hog with tax payer money. Emily doesn't even stop the war that the US wages blaming another country for their deeds and in the month that passes as she waits for the truth to come out some other way, thousands die in battles and the US decimates another country.
Another theme running through the book is the acceptance of drug use, which the author does make very believable. Once upon a time, English Ladies of the British Empire turned to opium to dull the guilt they felt at making beautiful dresses out of slave-grown cotton and the guilt of living off the excesses afforded them via the slave trade in the West Indies. The author makes it very believable that the DC elitists of this book certainly need the same guilt-alleviation in order to live as they do and someone must provide that for them. The drug dealers are made out to be the heroes of the tyrant class, providing a balm to their first world problems.
In the end, Emily Bird embarks on a tour of Europe, a tour paid for entirely by her parents' blood-ridden bank accounts. She celebrates the fact that a few politicians were going to be blamed, a few more (also responsible for the Pandemic) were going to take their place, and her parents were going to continue to do more research and continue to get paid by what's left of the US taxpayers. Throughout the book, the author plays with the idea that Emily is switching her name to Bird so that she can rise above the clutches of her mother, but I would argue that the real transformation is that Emily grows into a Hawk, fully acclimated to the community that raises her and ready to fly as they fly, swoop as they swoop, and prey as they prey.