Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Audiobook Review: Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Posted September 23, 2022 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

Love is the Drug

Love is the Drug

by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books on September 30, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: BIPOC Authors, BIPOC Character(s), Black Authors, Black Character(s), Lesbian Character(s), LGBTQIAP+ Character(s)
Content Warnings: Classism, Drug Use, Kidnapping, Murder, War

Rating: ★★½

Check out this book on Goodreads or buy the book at

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.

After adoring Trouble the Saints and really becoming immersed in Alaya Dawn Johnson’s writing style, I had high hopes for Love is the Drug. I think these two books are good examples of how intended audience and experience in the field makes a difference in quality. While Trouble the Saints was a beautifully written book with intriguing characters and settings, Love is the Drug (published several years earlier) fumbles for balance and fails to hold the reader. It’s not all bad, but it did not meet expectations.

Love is the Drug succeeds in concept. While I’m still not sure if this book is about love, conspiracy, or personal growth, the external emergency is interesting. Love is the Drug‘s shows us a world where a pandemic has broken out but Washington is quarantined and only the important government people and their children have been vaccinated. All of this happens in a very shady way that is generally unknown to the students, like our protagonist Emily Bird, and hidden from the rest of the country. This storyline is especially interesting because of the recent pandemic, it’s a glimpse of how things might have been in a parallel universe. Fortunately, we know the American government didn’t secretly vaccinate because at the onset it refused to take the pandemic seriously and all sorts of government officials from the top down have had COVID. It’s still an interesting story, part dystopia-potential, part conspiracy theory.

That’s where the good stuff ends. Early on, we meet a man named Roosevelt who is convinced Bird knows something she shouldn’t, and we spend the entire book dancing around what that may be. The question persistently does not get answered through the novel… to the point where, as I reader, I stopped caring and really just wanted to move on to something else. We’d often step off the path and dive into a love story that… didn’t make sense. The romantic moments were written well, but the progression of the relationship was clunky. They went from friendly acquaintances to “I’ll cook your Thanksgiving turkey” real fast. Literal turkey, not innuendo! … All these things together and the deflated ending left me underwhelmed about Love is the Drug.

We won’t talk about the incredibly tacky title. Just calling it out.

From a technical perspective, the thing that bothered me the most was the excess of dialogue. We learned most about external forces and our setting through conversations Bird has with others. Often times, these scenes are as awkward as her just walking into a room to have a conversation that provides information and no other purpose. It’s information dropping, sure, but it also created a lack of atmosphere. This is a particular pet peeve for me in book, and it ruined my experience as much as the directionlessness.

Overall… I don’t recommend Love is the Drug. I appreciate that it was a good idea, but the execution didn’t work for me. I would like to think that this is not representative of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s work, as her novel Trouble the Saints was very good.


Rating: 1.5 out of 5.


Rating: 3 out of 5.


Rating: 3 out of 5.

Personal Enjoyment

Rating: 2 out of 5.


Rating: 2.5 out of 5.


Rating: 3 out of 5.


Rating: 3 out of 5.
send me your thoughts

Have you read this book or anything by this author?

If so, did you enjoy it? If not, what would you do differently?

Share with me in the comments!

stay magical amber

Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Bloglovin’ | LibraryThing | The StoryGraph | Twitch

Other Books by Alaya Dawn Johnson

2 books found
Love is the Drug by Alaya Sawn Johnson


Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson



Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.