Cover of Love Drugged. A pile of pills in the shape of a heart

About the Book

Title: Love Drugged
Published: 2010

Cover Story: Keith Richards’s Nightstand
Drinking Buddy:
Do Not Take With Alcohol
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 (sexuality, drugs)
Talky Talk:
Bonus Factors:
Reparative Therapy, Cool Male Librarian, Mad Scientist
Bromance Status:
I Love You, Man

Cover Story: Keith Richards’s Nightstand

I love this cover, it reminds me of the parties I was never invited to. And I have to wonder just how the photographer went about arranging this. Looking at the image with a magnifying glass, you can tell the pills are empty gel caps. But still, what did they do, go to a pharmacist and ask for about five hundred colorful pill casings? “It’s for a book. Totally. What?”

The Deal:

Fifteen-year-old Jamie Bates doesn’t have a life that most people would envy. Not only is his last name the perfect setup for a masturbation joke, but his family has been forced to move in with his grandparents, thanks to his folks’ business failures. And Jamie is kind of an awkward, shy guy. A face in the crowd.

But hey, things are looking up. Celia Gamez, the coolest, hottest, and richest girl in school is showing an interest in our hero. Sometimes the gorgeous girl falls for the smart, unassuming type (so my mother said), and Jamie has just hit the jackpot. Yep, things are looking up for ol’ Jimbo. There’s just one slight problem.

Jamie doesn’t like girls. Not like that. Lord knows he wants to. Jamie faces the secret agony that so many teens know. He wants to be normal. He wants to like girls. But his brain just isn’t cooperating. Every time he closes his eyes to picture that special someone, he sees Ivan, the Eastern European hottie. Too bad there’s not some pill he could take to cure him of all this.

Is there?

Dr. Gamez, Celia’s father, happens to be a researcher. He makes pills. Pills that modify behavior. Pills that change things. Repress things. Like sexual orientation. Jamie manages to swipe a handful. Hey, the first one’s free…

Drinking Buddy: Do Not Take With Alcohol

Two pints of beer cheersing

Ah, hell, it’s a little late to read the directions, isn’t it? Jamie is the kind of guy who needs to have access to a time machine, so his forty-year-old self could go back and slap some sense into his fifteen-year-old self. He needs a friend to tell him that even when society says that you’re a weirdo, sometimes it’s society that’s wrong.

Incidentally, how’s that time machine working out, author James Klise?

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (sexuality, drugs)

Now Jamie is not the kind of guy who’d stalk a college girl, steal drugs, raid a lab, and face down a gunman…

Oh, wait, he actually is. And he vomits in Merida, Mexico, something few people can claim.

A much younger FYA dude Brian on a horse in Mexico

I can claim.

Talky Talk: Self-Loathing

Who didn’t kind of hate themselves at fifteen? We all wished we were taller, cooler, funnier, etc. But for LGBTQ youth, there’s another kind of self-hate. I’m looking forward to a world where the Jamies of the future can look at Love Drugged as kind of a historical oddity.

“Wait, so why was he pretending to be straight? What? No, seriously, why? You’re shitting me.”

On the other hand, we’ll probably just find something new to be pissed off about.

Bonus Factor: Reparative Therapy

Did you know gay people are like that because they want to be? Seriously. And with just a little love, guidance, and…I dunno, cold showers, they can all come back to the fold. Those sinful thoughts will just be a crazy ‘ol memory once we get through with them. TRUST ME.

A Jack Chick comic, where the devil leans over a young boy's shoulder and whispers homosexual thoughts into his ear

Jamie’s experiences with the pills yield mixed results. His homosexual desires do actually decrease. True, he starts suffering from headaches, soreness, and muscle spasms, but that’s the prices of normalcy, eh? And which of us can honestly say we haven’t vomited blood once in a while?

Bonus Factor: Cool Male Librarian

The librarian at Jamie’s school, Mr. Covici, sponsors the public service club and paints inspiring quotes all over the library. And it’s high time we give thanks to all the men serving as school librarians across the USA. Truly, they are today’s unsung heroes.

James Klise and Brian Katcher, snappily dressed, at the 2011 ALA conference

Me and James Klise. We’re both school librarians. Or was I too subtle?

Bonus Factor:  Mad Scientist

Cover of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, featuring the Hollywood-style monster

Kind of convenient that Dr. Gamez left those pills sitting around, huh? Just the sort of thing Jamie was looking for. I mean, it had to be an accident, right? What kind of lunatic would knowingly test out an experimental drug on a kid?

Bromance Status: I Love You, Man

And I mean that in a very real and heterosexual way. Jamie’s struggles for self-acceptance aren’t entirely a gay thing. We’d all like to fit in. But sometimes the price is just too damn high. I think every one of us has sold out just a little in life, and Love Drugged is a nice reminder of the high price of changing oneself.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.