Author: Suzanne Young (Twitter)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publish Date: April 30, 2013
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Sci-Fi
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.