review: Love Is the Drug

51lxVTCB9uLtitle: Love is the Drug

author: Alaya Dawn Johnson

date:Arthur A. Levine; September, 2004

main character: Emily Bird

 

Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC’s elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night.

Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus–something about her parents’ top secret scientific work–something she shouldn’t know.

The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that she might know more than she remembers. And what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history.

I can’t give as detailed a review as I’d like to on this one because I read it on NetGalley and it’s no longer available to me to refer to.

I read Johnson’s first YA book, Summer Prince, and was looking forward to whatever she’d write next. She did not disappoint. As with Prince, Johnson writes an intelligent book that places us in the midst of her world rather than step by step building it for us.  He female leads are strong, social issues are real and situations creative yet plausible.

Emily Bird is an upper middle class high school senior with college educated parents and a favorite uncle who is a high school dropout. As the flu epidemic spreads, the haves receive what the have nots don’t. Inequity abounds and is up close in Emily’s family. Sure, we know Emily is Black, but the issues here are about class, not race. What really stood out for me with this one was that no male saved Bird, she was able to save herself in a variety of situations.

This is an intelligent book with a black female lead. She knows about contemporary politicals, will be going to college (but which one??) and despite her teen angst and conflictions, is truly her own person. While there are too, too many black girls clamoring for a book of these sensibilities, Johnson’s world is broad and will appeal to all teens who like thought provoking books.

Honestly, as I listen to reports about ebola and watch as it spreads, I see conspiracies all in this mess, thanks to my reading Love is the Drug.

Johnson actually takes readers to black hair issues, actually writes about hair relaxers! Now, I don’t get why Bird applied/s these caustic chemicals to her head with such a severe gash along her hairline and I don’t know why her hair was nappy afterwards, but to go there! to write about the relaxer was something with which I could really identify. And this is why we need writers of color developing characters and stories for all readers. We need intellectual stories, hi/lo books, humorous, adventurous, romantic, mysterious, sporty books that fully represent the growing number of brown children in America. Here, race is authentic while the story is universal.

Once again, Alaya Dawn Johnson crafts a world with numerous problems. She’s not out to solve them, just to keep us on our toes. And that she does!

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