Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

Published: April 30th, 2013 (Simon Pulse)
Pages: 408
Rating: 4/5
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. [Description from Amazon]
I was very excited about The Program when I first heard about it and couldn’t wait to read it. I’ve had little interest in reading any other books by Suzanne Young, but I can honestly say I enjoyed her writing style. I was unsure about The Program when I first started it, because it seemed very dark (which it is) but the story, the characters, and the idea of a suicide epidemic really intrigued me and before long, I was hooked.
I found this book rather different from other books of the same genre. For instance, usually hatred towards the antagonist (The Program, in this case) is developed, but in this book, it was immediate. Sloane hates The Program for what it does to hurting people. This hatred had to be reignited after she went through The Program, though, because her memories (her hates and likes) were erased. Another example of it being different is that the love interest (James) is introduced immediately rather than having a relationship develop over the span of the book. More often than not, a love relationship develops over the entire book, but this obviously wouldn’t have worked in this case. We’re given brief flashbacks of the development of James’ and Sloane’s relationship, though, throughout the book. I’m really glad the author included these, because otherwise, I’m not sure I’d have been convinced of their “mad” love for each other.
I’m a dystopian nut, and memory erasing is an idea I really love to read about. It’s a core aspect in one of my NaNoWriMo novels, and something I’d really like to play around with in future novels. So the idea of The Program really interested me.
I found it ironic that in order to rebound suicidal depression, The Program took Sloane’s memories; yet in doing so, it killed her in a completely different way. Someone who’s had their memory wiped or been through The Program (called a “returner”) has to rewrite their lives. They know nothing about themselves or who they used to be. It’s like being reborn. Some things are familiar, but anything linked to their past that might have caused the initial depression is taken from their minds. Maybe not absolutely scientifically possible, but an interesting (though morbid) idea nonetheless.

Now. For the characters. Oooooh goodness. For starters, I was a little irritated with how the parents were portrayed. I felt like all of them were portrayed as ignorant, robotic, and stupid. I mean…really? So, that’s that. My second irritation was James. Now, Sloane says over and over how she loves his cocky spirit, but honestly, it got on my nerves. The guy’s an arrogant, hormonal douche bag. He seems bi-polar when he meets Sloane again after being in The Program. One minute he’s flirting with her (in his own cocky way) and the next he’s spewing insults. And then it’s explained later on that he was just “afraid of getting hurt.” Bad excuse, buddy. Bad excuse.
Anyway, there’s my rant. I liked Sloane’s character, though she was a bit clingy and desperate when it came to James. She’s snarky, though, and I liked that about her. Realm was another one of my favorites. I liked him soooo much better than James. He seems to respect (and even love) Sloane more than James did. He was mysterious, yet he had all the answers. He wanted what was best for Sloane; he wanted to protect her. I would have loved to see Sloane and Realm end up together, but that wouldn’t have worked for the book. Besides, there’s always book 2, right? (Ya hear that, Suzanne?)
I ended up really enjoying The Program. I sped through those 400 pages pretty darn fast, so that tells you how much I liked it (slow readers FTW!). There were some character issues that irked me, as well as some rather mature content (see Quick Content Review below), which results in four stars rather than five. That said, I highly recommend The Program to mature teen readers/adults.
Quick Content Review: *may contain spoilers*
Language: Moderate (Several b-words, a few f-words, etc.)
Violence: Moderate (mention of teens committing suicide in various ways- poison, slitting wrists, drowning, etc.)
Sexual: Heavy (Characters casually sleep together; some heavy kissing).

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