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Publisher: Simon Pulse
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In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.The world of The Program is a scary one. When teenage suicide becomes an epidemic and the only solution to be found is to erase the "infected" memories, how can teenagers ever feel safe? You can't be sad at a bad grade. You can't mourn the loss of your best friend or your only sibling. You can't cry. You can't appear stressed or bothered by anything. Any of these things will get you flagged and sent to The Program. It seems fear of the cure is becoming the sickness, and yet no one in charge can see it. Sloane can; she understands her grief at her brother's death, and even as she is sad she knows she has more to live for. But no one listens to Sloane, no one wants to acknowledge that sadness can be good, can be healthy.
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.
In many ways, The Program was not what I expected, and, with it being touted as dystopia, I expected a lot more establishment of a world and some kind of rebel action, like we get in a lot of first books in dystopian series. That wasn't the case here. First, the world is really ours. There's no advancement of technology or cruel government for the most part, just a world in which teen suicide has become too prevalent. The Program itself isn't even an all-over-the-world thing; it's being tested in Sloane's school district. And while there is a sense of a larger rebel kind of movement in certain places--and mentioned at the end--it's not the focus. Instead, we get a really good establishment of The Program itself, along with our core characters. I liked this, and I think it bodes well for an action-packed and very illuminating second book.
I think the romance here is really lovely as well. I quickly got a good sense of who Sloane and James were, and Realm once he appeared, and could see not only the strength of their relationship and bond, but why it worked. The love triangle is one that's painful to read about sometimes, since it hurts Realm, but it's also very true to Sloane's character and not especially love triangle-y.
This is such an interesting concept, and one that kind of scared me to think about someone writing a book about. It could have easily not been sensitive to the difficult subject, but that's not the case at all. It took guts to write this book and I applaud Suzanne Young for that. I also think she does a good job of highlighting the seriousness and of showing that simply eliminating the "infected" memories doesn't work. Working through grief and through strong emotions makes you a stronger person in the end, even though it's hard, hard enough to make you think of making that final decision. I really, really think she does a good job of showing this and of showing that the solution of throwing medication and drugs at every problem doesn't work.
Even as it's painful to read, The Program is a fascinating and thought-provoking book. Not only does it tackle a difficult subject carefully, but it's an entertaining as well.