“The Program” by Suzanne Young
Synopsis: 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.
3 out of 5 stars
(Warning – could be triggering for suicide and abuse of power.)
I came across this series by watching a house hunting show on television. The author, Suzanne Young, was featured but not as an author, just as a person looking to buy a house. She had gone through some financial difficulties and decided to write a book to help make ends meet. I liked her and decided to give her books a shot.
The Program is the first book in a series that includes three books, and one novella. This is a YA series has lots of romance worked into the books. That said, I really liked this book.
The premise is original for a dystopian fiction. Teen suicide has reached epidemic proportions and the government has come up with a way to combat that epidemic – The Program. It works, but the cost is high. Everyone who goes through the program comes back “cured” but they are wiped clean – their memories are gone.
Sloan is our main character and it’s apparent that everything she does is to avoid the Program. It’s all any of her friends do as no one wants to end up there. They have seen what happens to the ones who do go there. Sloan’s boyfriend, James, is her world and her rock. They promise to keep the other safe and out of the Program.
The first half of the book is about fighting the Program. The second half is what happens when they lose that fight.
Both Sloan and James are taken by the Program. Sloan is reported by her mother, who is terrified of losing her. The Program is a place of constant drugging and therapy. The drugging to keep them calm and the therapy to erase selected memories that have been decided to cause depression. Memories like friends, lost loved ones, past loves. It’s a sad and scary place, made more so by the handlers who can so easily abuse the power they have over the patients there.
Aside from the obvious suspension of belief, I did have a few issues with the book. It’s pretty clear that there is no rhyme or reason as to who filters into the Program. Crying, laughing, depression, acting out in any way will end a person up there. So, most teenagers would fir this criteria.
The matter of depression is a main topic in this story. Depression is the one thing that will definitely get someone put in the Program. It’s odd how it’s handled in the book though. The topic switches from actual depression (as Sloan is described to have) to a “sickness” that can be contagious and caught like a flu (as James is supposed to have). It can be seen in the eyes apparently and this leads directly to suicide.
So, the premise is flawed. The romance is a little overdone, and the subject is not consistent.
I liked it anyway. I thought the idea was original and enjoyed reading the book. I read all four, and will be reviewing them for you and I hope you will like them too!