Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Love Drugged
James Klise

rating: 6.5 out of 10 "books"

What could be better than reading a book written by one of your own: I’m referring to a fellow librarian of course. In his first YA novel, Klise presents the possibility of a cure for homosexuality in the form of a little blue pill. And why shouldn’t it be a pharmaceutical company that invents the cure for such a “perversion of the human way of life,” (this is me quoting the opinion of countless people across the globe). For me however, I saw this story as one that presented a possible threat to the happiness of so many people who just so happen to be gay.

Love Drugged, is the story of Jamie Bates, a fifteen year old who just wants to be like any normal girl-obsessed teenage boy. The only problem is that he’s not: Jamie is gay. So when the should-be girl of his dreams, Celia, introduces Jamie to her father, the creator of a in-the-works gay cure called Rehomoline, Jamie, desperately seeking to live the life he feels he was meant to, has no choice but to steal some of the pills. However, as the pills take away his attraction to men; horrible side effects fill its place. Even worse, Jamie sees no advancement in his attraction to women, Celia included. The story follows Jamie as he makes bad choices, one after the other, and the people he will eventually hurt in his quest to be straight.

With the recent national “Things Will Get Better” campaign, I thought this book was fitting, especially since, within my own library system, there have been suicides due to unacceptance and ridicule because of sexual preference. Initially upon reading, I saw Rehomoline as a good thing; why shouldn’t people have a choice as to whether they want to be gay or not. But eventually, and as suggested further on in the book, why should that even be an issue? Why should a gay individual have to make that choice? It’s like an African American having the choice to become white, as if there were something wrong with being black. In an even larger scope, and something that I only realized after reading it further in this book, what if this drug did become available, and instead of people having the choice of whether or not they wanted to be “straight,” the drug was, for lack of a better word, weaponized, and forced upon homosexual individuals in order to mold them into some crazy idea of what a man or woman should be, or, more specifically, who they should love. In my opinion, that’s one less thing that needs to be made available to the likes of the ultra-religious homophobes. The worst part of this story is that the drug does nothing to “cure” homosexuality because although it may take away a man or woman’s attraction to the same sex, it does nothing to make a man or woman attracted to the opposite sex: it simply “suppresses the homosexual response in the brain,” thus destroying the one thing that separates man from all other creatures and turning people into a sort of zombie, devoid of any kind of human emotions relating to love.

Although this book and I started off pretty slow, I really came to like it, especially what it stands for and some of the issues and thought-provoking questions it brought up for me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro

rating: 6 out of 10 "books"

In the spirit of novels such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Unit,” comes a similar story that depicts the possibility of a not-too-distant-future, that while seeming hardly believable now, could actually come to conception when you really get right down to the root of the idea. An alumna of Hailsham, a mysterious school located in the English countryside, Kathy H. and her fellow classmates are not your ordinary human beings. Much of Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” is spent reminding readers that Hailsham students are “special,” a characteristic that up until the last quarter of the story, we can only guess at as to why. The students’ caretakers, or guardians as they are called, instruct Hailsham students on the importance of taking care of themselves, “keeping yourselves very healthy inside, that’s much more important for each of you then it is for me,” as one guardian puts it. As Kathy H. reminisces, “even at that age – we were 9 or 10 – we knew just enough to make us wary of that whole territory. We certainly knew – though not in any deep sense – that we were different from our guardians, and also from the normal people outside; we perhaps even knew that a long way down the line there were donations waiting for us. But we didn’t really know what that meant.”

The little pieces Kazuo Ishiguro lets onto early on in “Never Let Me Go” deal with the Hailsham students and donations. We are told that “normal” people are overcome with revulsion and dread at the mention of Hailsham students, especially Madame, the strange woman who comes to the school from time to time to pick up art for her “gallery,” that students spend much of their time creating. If for nothing else, this story had me reading to find out the great mystery behind the Hailsham students and their donations and kept my attention with the beautiful writing. Truly a coming-of-age tragic story, the plot follows Kathy H. and her closest classmates, Tommy and Ruth, as they grow inside the walls of Hailsham and beyond, dealing not only with the hardships of day to day life and growing up, but also those that face them in their uncertain future. If you’ve recently seen the theatrical movie release starring Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley, or you’re looking for a pretty decent read, I’d recommend checking out Never Let Me Go.