The Program by Suzanne Young Review

Monday, July 14, 2014

Title: The Program
Author: Suzanne Young (Twitter)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publish Date: April 30, 2013
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Sci-Fi
Pages: 405
Source: Personal Copy

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.
I've been avoiding dystopian novels like the plague lately, so reading The Program was very much like a warm welcome back to this genre that captivated me over a year ago. Giving myself a break from the genre gave me a chance to clear my mind, think objectively about such intricacies in a dystopian society and allow me to once again form connections and bonds with characters within their worlds. Suzanne Young offers up a dystopian reality that's vaguely reminiscent of other novels we've read before, but there are harsh extremes within this novel that set it apart entirely.

I found that the idea for The Program was incredibly well-presented, and I found that the double-edged sword aspect of the plot, itself, made for a memorable experience. Teenagers are known to be volatile, emotional and far too often unguarded, making them susceptible to extreme emotional swings, which are both frowned upon and immediately stopped within this society. One recorded outburst equates to a stint at the Program where teens are forever changed - and their memories are wiped. But the cost is high, and the moral implications within this novel are challenging, thrilling and exciting. Is life worth living without memories, emotions and feelings, or is life worth living solely as a shell? What emotions make you…you? These questions fueled my rabid reading of the plot, as well as my overall curiosity throughout.

I must admit, however, that I failed to make the strongest connection with Sloane or James though, and while I loved the setup and the intricacies of this novel, I desperately wanted to feel something for the two of them, as well. Much of their setup was focused upon their love story, which is established prior to the novel's beginning. I'm all for a pre-established relationship, but I need to understand each person's character and role within the relationship to better understand the dynamic of how they work and relate to one another, as well. Trust me, Sloane was a likable girl, but was she the most memorable at the end of the day? Perhaps not as much as I'd hoped, which did, unfortunately, lessen my desire to root for her.

Overall though, despite my struggle to fully connect with the characters within The Program, I was really surprised with how intriguing I found the setup of this novel to be. Furthermore, it must be said that Ms. Young takes her time building this eerily ordered world, and I'm definitely going to continue on this series - and hope that I learn to better understand Sloane, James and the other important characters, as well. I give this novel a 4 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it for fans of YA, especially those looking for a well-built dystopian.


  1. I'm glad you liked this one despite not feeling any connection with the characters, Melissa. For me, it was the characters that made the book and I wanted a little more from the world-building. I also really loved their romance, but I know a lot of readers had the same issues as you did with it because it was a pre-established romance. I wasn't the biggest fan of the sequel, but I hope you'll love it! :)
    Lovely review, Melissa!

  2. Do you think the author did a pre-established relationship because she wanted to spend more time in the world rather than setting up a new relationship? Just wondering. Sounds like she did do a good job with the world!

  3. I've been meaning to read this book for a while now. Despite the characters not being as developed as you would have liked, the concept and dystopian world Young created sounds fantastic. Thanks for the review!

  4. Okay, first of all, the Wickedpedia cover top left of your blog nearly gave me a heart attack when I first clicked over. *shudders* That is one creepy cover!

    Second, it's a shame you couldn't really connect to the characters in this one, but I'm glad that didn't detract so hugely from the story that you could no longer enjoy it. The fact that you gave this a 4 despite the connection issue tells me there's some other really great stuff here:) Lovely review as always!

  5. I've heard good reviews about this one before and the world sounds so very intriguing too! I'm sorry to hear you didn't connect fully with the main character, but even so you gave this one 4 stars, so I think I really ought to add it to my list, given how much I love dystopians!

  6. I'm still not sure if I want to read The Program! It does sound like it's a bit different from other dystopian novels, which is definitely a point in its favor. Plus, I'm just glad that you wound up enjoying it!

  7. I've also been turning my nose up at dystopias, but I have to say, The Program is by far one of my favorite dystopias. I absolutely loved it!! Everything about it was perfect to me. It was so emotional and set up well and I liked the established relationship rather than walking through an awkward first love. Great review!

  8. I'm with you on connecting with Sloane & James. While I thought this was a fascinating book and nicely written, I never felt anything toward the characters. Perhaps the sequel will develop them more.

    Nice review! :)

  9. Like you, I'm taking a long break from dystopias, but this will be the first novel I read when I feel like reading them again. I actually already bought the audio. I'm also fond of pre-established relationships, but they have to be done very well and the characterization has to be excellent. I don't know how well this would work for me. Everything else sounds great, though. I'm actually looking forward to it.

  10. I'm glad that you were able to finally find a dystopian that you were able to enjoy Melissa, I agree that this book certainly had a lot to offer which was unique to the many dystopian books already out there. I'm sorry that you weren't able to form a connection with the characters, that always sucks when that happens, but I'm thrilled that you enjoyed this overall! Fab review lovely!

  11. I haven't dipped into the dystopia genre for awhile either, Melissa, but I've heard that this duology is particularly good. I'm so glad you enjoyed it and am definitely looking forward to your thoughts on the sequel--if it's another hit for you, I'm definitely bumping this up my TBR. Great review! :)

  12. I agree with this review 100% Melissa! :D It sounds like we both had the same problem with the characters! They were certainly well-developed, but it never felt like their development went above and beyond, you know? Nonetheless, it was definitely was a solid, fast-paced novel nonetheless. Thanks for sharing, and, as always, BRILLIANT review! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf


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