By: Suzanne Young
Published By: Simon Pulse
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Series: Program (#1)
Reading Level: Young Adult
Buy the Book: Amazon
Goodreads Summary: In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.
Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.
Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.
This was my first book by Suzanne Young. I'd heard good things about her writing, so I was looking forward to this book. Even though I liked the premise, I had mixed feelings after finishing the book.
Keep your feelings to yourself, and don't let anyone see you cry. That's what Sloane has learned to do in order to avoid The Program. Ever since suicide became a national epidemic, anyone deemed at risk is taken for treatment and returns without their memories intact. Sloane lost her brother that way, but she's determined that she won't let herself or James be taken. As long as she and James have each other, they can avoid The Program. But with every day that passes, Sloane has more memories and more obstacles to face. As hard as she tries, she can only be strong for so long. But the consequences of breaking down are unthinkable...
At the beginning, I found the idea of suicide as an epidemic interesting, and I was curious to see how the government could prevent this. However, after reading the book, I can't help but feel that in many ways, the program creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. When people are so afraid of expressing emotions and aren't allowed to show sadness even when it's appropriate, it seems like a recipe for unnecessary treatment. However, this book was a good example not only of how you can only be so strong before something has to give, but also of the deep connections that can form in trying times. I loved how Sloane and James' relationship was portrayed in the beginning of the book. Even though he tried to take care of her, at times he was vulnerable and she was strong for him. It was clear how well they fit together (without insta-love), and there were certainly tender moments and heartbreaking moments that made me want to hug them both.
By the end of this book, I felt unsettled. The book is dark, which is expected given the subject matter, but it is more than that. As the book progresses, Sloane became an unreliable narrator, which was interesting in some respects but frustrating in others. It was hard to know who could be trusted, and even harder to know what the actual truth was. But because of this, I am curious to see what happens in the next book, and I'm certainly eager for more closure.
The Program is a different kind of dystopian novel, one that is much more driven by emotions than actions, but still engrossing nonetheless. I know there is so much more of the story for Sloane and James, and I am looking forward to seeing where the next book takes them.