Book Review: The Program by Suzanne Young (5 stars)
The Program by Suzanne Young
Genre: YA Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Published: April 30th, 2013
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.
One out of every three teenagers committing suicide and society is desperate for a solution. Statistics say that The Program is 100% successful. After reading THE PROGRAM, I’m surprised to say that I can empathize with the people who created The Program. In most dystopian novels, society is evil. In this dystopian novel, society is desperate.
History has proven to us that when society gets desperate, it does some things that are regretted later, like Japanese Internment Camps or forcing people into mental institutions against their will. It’s not that much of a stretch to imagine society sending teenagers into a rehab program, with the intention of removing negative memories so that only happy ones remain. Whether or not it works is not the point of the novel.
It reminds me of THE DARKEST MINDS in that sense. Society is desperate to find a solution, especially one that is easy to hide out of eyesight from grieving parents. After all, during WWII, didn’t British families send their children overseas to protect them from the war? The children weren’t too happy to be separated from everything they knew and everyone they loved. My point is that it is a very plausible reaction for parents to send their children off if they truly believe that it is in their best interest.
Sloane knows that her parents were heartbroken after the death of her brother. Sloane never got over the death of her brother, especially since she and her boyfriend James witnessed it. She knows that if she’s honest with her own thoughts that they will probably send her into The Program, since they’d rather her lose her memories than suffer the lose of both children. Instead, Sloane and her friends bottle up the negative thoughts and feelings and can’t even risk crying in private.
The romance between Sloane and James was so special, it made all the bad things worth reading. They truly care for each other and connect on a level most YA couples won’t reach for another 20 years. James tries hard to be the rock in the relationship, but inside he’s breaking apart too. They make a promise to each other to keep each other out of the program, but its inevitable that one of them cracks…and nothing can save them.
Reading THE PROGRAM was a heart-wrenching affair. I wish that Sloane had someone to confide in. Worse, when she does find someone to listen to her, it’s not in her best interest. Sloane is on a one-track path to getting her memories erased and losing James. Nothing that Sloane tries and no matter how many times I screamed at the book, does that path change.
I like how the ending focuses on fate. No matter how circumstances change for Sloane, it seems like some things are just made to be. No matter how grim the story ending up being, I’m glad that I was left with a little bit of hope that the characters will finally find happiness.
(I purchased the book from my local indie bookstore.)