We're reviewing Suzanne Young's The Program today. This is a book we had a lot of mixed feelings about, so our review doesn't really follow our standard format.
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published April 30th 2013 by Simon Pulse
Format reviewed: E-arc via Edelweiss
Second, I think Mitch's review (from Goodreads) pretty much covers everything I wanted to say about The Program, and does it in a very thoughtful, reflective sort of way. So go read his review first.
With that being said, here's my abbreviated review.
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.
However, I just couldn't get over the idea that by the end of The Program, I felt that the concept of suicide had really only been dealt with in large, broad strokes.
There wasn't anything to necessarily differentiate the treatment that Sloane undergoes in this book, from the treatment that other characters undergo in similar dystopian YA books. The setup is essentially the same. The main character is brought to a medical facility against their will.
In said facility, they deal with:
* a menacing doctor
* a medical treatment which will likely cause some kind of mental harm - e.g. most commonly, memory loss * the main character meeting with someone who will somehow either help them brave the treatment, or get them out of the facility
* the memories of someone (or something) on the outside, which will keep them going, even after their treatment is complete.
With all due respect to Suzanne Young, the entirety of The Program felt very paint-by-numbers. There wasn't especially noteworthy about what Sloane experienced during her treatment which made me feel like
I should be devastated that she had been enrolled. There also wasn't a single doubt in my mind that she would somehow find James, and reunited with each other. I just knew it would happen, because it's been done.
And most disappointedly, there wasn't anything different about the treatment that Sloane receives, indicating how it may or may not relate to the suicide epidemic.
However, the writing can't be completely blamed for my mixed feelings about The Program.
I've also seen some reviewers suggest that we might feel differently about the plotting of The Program, if there weren't already such a large number of dystopian books in the market. I'm inclined to agree - if I hadn't read a number of books earlier in the year with similar plotlines, I would have probably been more positively impacted by the book.
I would recommend this book to interested readers, but I would also add a caveat: read this book after you've created some time and distance away from the other dystopian books you've read in the past year or so. You'll want to clear your mind first, before you tackle this book. Otherwise, you may very well just write it off as another dystopian.
For more information on Suzanne Young, why not check out her website and her twitter account?
I received an e-ARC of The Program from Simon and Schuster via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!