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.
Suzanne Young’s The Program is such a brilliant sorta-dystopic book. The world construct is that there is a suicide epidemic among teens, so the government, since they don’t know the cause of the disease, decide to monitor all teens for depressive behavior. At-risk kids are sent into the Program, where they are brainwashed into a cheerful personality. The Program roots out the memories causing the sadness, so basically they erase them. Most of the kids would rather die than face that fate and ironically for the Program, that fear alone is driving more kids into depression. Not that the grown-ups notice it – when they see tears, they only see a suicide risk. So almost all the teens have learned to hide their emotions when in presence of older people – making them feel isolated and with no one to talk to except their friends. But since the epidemic persists, said friends are also killing themselves and then the ones who remain feel even more depressed because they aren’t even allowed to grieve. Such was the story of Sloane and James, who lose Sloane’s brother to the epidemic. They are supporting each other through their grief, and their love is so deep and overwhelming that the thought of losing each other (due to the Program) is a constant pain for them. Parents are basically trying to keep them apart because two common people in grief seems like risk to them.
Divided into 3 parts, the first part is about Sloane and James’ lives before the Program, the second about Sloane during the Program and the third after it. The most heartbreaking part was the second, where we see Sloane slowly losing pieces of her memories. It hurts when she goes back to the memories she has left, knowing it will never be the same again with James, when both their memories are erased. While in the Program, she makes a friend in Realm – who helps her out a lot and even saves her from a lecherous staff member. He was love triangle material but she still loves James even if she doesn’t remember him completely. When Sloane reaches the end of the program, I really cried for all the memories she lost. The third part, with Sloane trying to piece together her life while keeping away from the stranger James, is good, but doesn’t compare to the first two parts. The writing and plot development in the first two parts was really good but in the third, it got a little fast-paced. Granted, there were quite interesting developments, as well the hinting of a Rebellion, it rushed James and Sloane falling in love with each other again.
In summary, I loved this book. The idea was great, it was written well, good romance and has a great story. Looking forward to the sequel – hoping to get answers on that epidemic!