Twenty-four year old author Sarahbeth Purcell debuts with Love is the Drug, a novel where the protagonist, a 24-year-old woman named Tyler Taylor, is broken-hearted over her boyfriend, an older man named David. Love is the Drug explores issues that most young women go through at some point during a period of being single and dating: how does one move on after being blown off and broken up with by someone you are in love with – and that person either no longer loves you or never did in the first place.
At the onset of the novel, Tyler is living with her boyfriend, David, in Los Angeles. Tyler left her parents’ home in Tennessee a few months earlier and spent all of her savings to move in with David. While David was initially enthusiastic about this arrangement, in a matter of a couple of months their relationship has gone sour. Tyler does everything possible to try to please David and get his attention, including desperate attempts to entice David into sex at least once a day. David finds Tyler’s antics boring, distracting and about as appealing as stale bread. In fact, David cannot even be bothered to change clothes or shower regularly. His “passion” lies in holing up at home and playing video games on the computer all day, every day. David is a washed-up musician who has no motivation to make anything of himself, and if he ever cared about Tyler, he certainly does not anymore.
Unfortunately, Tyler has trouble accepting the fact that David no longer wants to be part of her life, if her ever did in the first place. She finally wakes up to reality and grudgingly books a flight home to Tennessee. Tyler’s father is an alcoholic and he is dying of liver disease. While Tyler loathes the idea of leaving David, although she is desperate and unhappy when she is with him, she knows that it is time to return home and see her father before he departs her world permanently. Tyler trudges back to Tennessee and moves back in with her family.
The remainder of the novel focuses on Tyler’s life back at home with her parents and siblings. Tyler is not close to her siblings and her mother seems only interested in making sure that all the attention and pity is about her, despite the fact that her husband and the father of their children is dying. Tyler has to deal with her father’s terminal illness in an unsupportive family environment, and she must sort through her feelings about that while she is getting over her breakup with David. Tyler’s remaining passions are making “top 10 lists,” and she is inspired to start working on her “top 10 things to do before she dies,” which takes her on a road trip where she encounters unexpected love and the “life-saving power” of roadkill (a dying armadillo).
Love is the Drug is an admirable attempt by a young author, and Tyler is an interesting protagonist who is pathetic and endearing at the same time. Just when the reader wants to shake Tyler to have her snap out of perpetual state of self-pity, she will take charge of her life and realize that her happiness is her own responsibility. The “top 10 lists” that Tyler writes are amusing and add a light tone to a novel that deals with deeper issues such as obsession, alcoholism, depression and death. Tyler’s adventures at the end of the novel come across as unrealistic with a rather pat ending. There are several references to music and bands popular in the 1990s and on, although many readers will not recognize the musicians unless they listen to rock and alternative music. Love is the Drug is best reserved for younger readers, although the sexual content is not suitable for a “young adult” novel. This reviewer is in her mid-thirties and was just young enough to appreciate Tyler’s trials and tribulations and the musicians referenced throughout, although older readers will probably feel out of touch with this novel.