Author: Suzanne Young
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Number of Pages: 416
Source of Book: ARC from Publisher
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.
First Thought: I could not stop reading this book. It was engaging and I couldn’t put it down until I had raced to the finish.
THE PROGRAM is a gripping, suspenseful story set in a realistic dystopic future where you never know who to trust - not even yourself because your own memories may not be real. From the very beginning I was intrigued by the setup for this world where teen suicide is an epidemic and those who are depressed are sent into The Program where any memory related to the experiences or people that made them fall into depression is taken away. This leads to secrecy and bottling up of emotions and a pressure cooker of a high school experience for these teens, especially those who were close to someone who was “infected,” who are constantly watched for any signs of needing to be taken away. This is how we meet Sloane and James, as they try to keep the sadness from her brother’s suicide from overcoming them and leading to them getting “flagged” for treatment. They have only each other to rely on and be honest with because neither one would ever turn in the other. They have to keep up the façade, but when they’re alone together they can let their emotions out. They look out for each other and are madly in love. But when more and more of their friends are being taken away to The Program and returning not remembering them, it boils over into being too much to handle. But after getting the memory treatment, will they remember each other? Will their love surpass all of the memories being taken away?
Suzanne Young skillfully set up this book in three parts: the before, the during, and the after of being put in The Program. Each one building upon the last and to a conclusion that is a game changer. Her writing style has an easy to read contemporary feel and builds the suspense and fear so the reader feels invested in what happens and sympathizes with the characters. The first person narration from Sloane adds an element of feeling all of the emotions as she falls into depression becoming “infected,” the fear of having her memories taken away during her treatment and not knowing who to trust, and the confusion and hope of being “returned” to the outside world having been cured but knowing there are pieces missing. And when she runs into James, will she even know who he is? Will he know her? Or is she better off just forgetting about him like everyone tells her she should? Or, no matter what happened to the memories in their brains, will their hearts scream they are destined to be together? How can you trust yourself when you know your memories aren’t complete and you don’t know what your life was like before?
All of this races toward an inevitable ending that reveals some surprising information. There are little clues along the way, but what is going on with The Program and resistance to it is bigger than Sloane could have imagined, and the information she gets at the end makes for a great setup for where she could head next. I, for one, can't wait to find out how it all works out.
Final Thought: I'm really hoping this one is a series because Suzanne Young sets it up well to have a whole new perspective on things at the end, and I'm dying to know what will happen to Sloane, James, and Realm next. *Note: The author said it will be two books! Thank goodness!