LOVE IS THE DRUG by Alaya Dawn Johnson is a fast-paced mystery-suspense set in near-future Washington DC.
Set against the backdrop of a global pandemic, prep-school teen Emily Bird becomes involved in a mysterious homeland security scandal made worse by her memory loss after an elite Washington DC party. This young adult novel involves a wide range of topics that will attract youth including romance, friendships, conspiracy, drugs, and disaster.
The plot moves quickly as the world dives deeper into chaos and our heroine tries to piece together the mystery of her memory loss. The author does a masterful job dealing with social problems, public policy, and contemporary issues facing teens such as drug use and college preparation.
The authentic, conversational writing style is likely to appeal to a young adult audience. Like many works of mystery/suspense, movement between the present and flashbacks can be temporarily disorienting. In addition, the story breaks down near the end as the author attempts to tie up all the loose ends. However, the overall plot is fast-paced and engaging.
The diverse cast of characters were skillfully developed and realistically portrayed. Teens will enjoy the strong female lead. Rarely do teen readers have the opportunity to see a realistically portrayed, independent, intelligent young black woman in a leading role.
Each chapter begins with a chemical compound. Careful readers will easily connect the chemicals to the chapter’s focus and students will be thrilled to apply their Chemistry class to the real-world.
With so many series books to choose from, librarians will be happy to see a stand-alone mystery-suspense.
Those readers who enjoy this type of mystery/suspense would also enjoy adult suspense novels by Michael Crichton and John Grisham.
With the Ebola scare making headlines and conspiracy theories everywhere, this book is likely to fly off the shelf.
Publisher ARC used for review