Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: THE PROGRAM by Suzanne Young

Title: The Program
Author: Suzanne Young
Publication date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse

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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.

Review:
Part I, first sentence: The air in the room tastes sterile. 

Imagine the rate of teen suicides exponentially increasing. The government frantically tries to tame it down by forcing teens to go through a special kind of therapy. This therapy wipes away your past. You know a few key things, but most of your past is declared "harmful" because, hey, you were sick. All of it had to contribute somehow, right? But before you get to that point, you have the hanging threat of being dragged away by handlers, foreboding men in white suits who keep an eye out every day. You have to do a checklist at school every day, asking if you feel lonely or if someone close to you has committed suicide. If that's not enough, you basically have to hide every negative feeling inside, big or small, and never ever have a rough day. Anything can get you flagged. 

Oh, your parents can't be trusted either because they'll sometimes always call The Program themselves to "make you feel better." You can't even stay mad at them for betraying you either because you'll come back with no knowledge of what happened, just that you were "sick" and now you're "better." 


After her brother Brady killed himself, Sloane and his best friend (also her boyfriend) James have supported each other, promising that they won't allow either of them to go into The Program or commit suicide. Usually if a couple acted all "you're my everything, I love you forever and ever, I can't live without you, be with me, etc." I would be wanting to spit at the book. However, this isn't a regular relationship in a regular setting. I hate codependant relationships, but there was a need for this one. Who else could they trust? Without the other one there, their horrible home lives, the lurking doom of The Program, and the rising depression, what do they have to live for? Oddly enough, while I appreciated their relationship, I wasn't the biggest fan of James. I liked him at points, but he definitely didn't woo me.

I wish I could say when everything really starts to unravel, but that would probably be considered a semi-spoiler. I was expecting it, but was still a bit surprised when it did happened. It's when you watch a show/movie and you know something will pop out or you know that the wrong person will walk in, but your heart still constricts when it does. 

Part II, first sentence: I slowly look to my side, my vision a bit blurry as I wake.

As expected, Sloane is put into The Program. There, we encounter many suspicions. We have creepy Roger, who I wanted to stab with a needle. Loony Tabitha, who I'm still confused about. The nurses and doctors, the typical bad people that seriously make me wonder how anybody can think that the bad thing they're doing is actually the right thing. Then Realm, the cute mysterious boy, who I can't say much about. 

I never once felt at peace while Sloane was in The Program (can I just say that I hate having to capitalize both of those words? The should not be capitalized!), which was the point. Some people might disagree, but I thought the story picked up while she was in there. She had to go through the horrible journey of losing her memory, but we also got flashbacks of her old life with James or Brody. Questions and danger surrounded her constantly.


Part III, first sentence: I had trouble sleeping the first night home. 

I can't say almost anything about the end, of course. However, I do have to say that the whole concept of losing your memory terrifies me. Not remembering key things when I'm older terrifies me, so how much worse would I feel at not remembering my own life as a teenager? Probably much worse. You don't remember who you are, what you did, or anything about yourself. The only thing you do have is what your parents and The Program tells you, which you can bet are lies. 

They mentioned it a couple times, but what I thought was aggravating was the fact that it seemed like more suicides were happening because of The Program. Teenagers didn't want their lives stripped away from them, understandably, so they would rather die instead. And the reason they get depressed is either because someone close to them lost their memory in The Program, someone close to them committed suicide rather than go into The Program, or depression is so hyped up by the government that they think they are infected. How do the officials not see that? Yes, I know this is fiction.

The ending is how I thought it would play out, but I'm not displeased that I guessed it. In the beginning, I wasn't crazy for the book. My expectations started to wither, but it gradually got better until I couldn't stop reading it. 

Verdict: A fantastic futuristic novel that made me think and be invested into the story.

Have you read it? What were your thoughts on it? And what do you think of your memory being wiped clean?

17 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this one a lot more than I thought I would, though it took me a while to get through the whole thing, mostly because it was kind of depressing. Not the author's fault, though. Suicide is always a morbid topic to deal with. But overall I thought the world came together well and I liked the characters. Nice review!

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    1. It really is. I was prepared for that though, but even when prepared, it can still be tough :)

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  2. I've read so many mixed reviews for this book, that I keep changing my mind about giving this book a go, but Sunny I think you've convinced me with your review to give this book a go, the concept seems too good to pass up on! Fab review!

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    1. Yay! I'm glad I could convince you because I did like it. Just get past the beginning :)

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  3. Hmm ... this is definitely one of those books say "read me" but I've been putting up a fight. Not sure why. I'm curious though about how it works once they become adults. I know, I know, just read it. :) Love the review, Sunny.

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  4. First of all, I just want to say that I love how you've started including the book's first line in your review. That sentence is so important and I sometimes give it a little too much power when deciding whether or not I want to read the rest of the story.

    I have heard great thing about this book, but it is your review that has finally convinced me to read it. It doesn't seem like anyone appreciates the "you are my world" relationship dynamic, but in this case, I can see why you think it makes sense. I am much more forgiving when two characters have a reason to be dependent on each other than when they are simply weak people, and this couple's relationship sounds a lot better than the "We're on the run from the government so let's stop and share a passionate kiss" relationship you often see in dystopians. And I like the idea of The Program only succeeding in causing MORE suicides. That's the kind of things that sparks anger and makes you think, both of which are great reactions to have to a novel.

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    1. Thank you :) I love first lines!

      It is! I agree, I just love your whole comment.

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  5. I'm glad this turned out to be a good read for you in the end. The concept is a little chilling, but it does make me want to check out the book even more. I actually won a copy recently so I guess I'll have to get around to it sooner rather than later now. :) Lovely review, Sunny!

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    1. Woo, that's great you won a copy :) Hope you like it!

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  6. OMG the Whoopi gif! HAHAHA Love that! I absolutely loved this book! Yes the concept is a little out there but it didn't bother me much. I adored the relationship between James and Sloane. :)

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  7. I really want to read this one-- the premise is so intriguing...but. I would probably get really depressed thinking about all of the suicides in this. Does that make any sense at all? I don't know. I also don't like it when I don't understand why characters are even present-- and codependent relationships are okay...I guess. LOL. Awesome review, Sunny!

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    1. That does make sense! I was worried about the same thing actually at first :)

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  8. I have heard mostly negative feedback about this one, but I see a lot of redeeming qualities in it from your review. For instance, that strikethrough you mentioned is one I can relate too. When fiction, especially a dystopia, really makes you stop and contemplate, it has succeeded in its main purpose. I also hate codependent relationships, and I like your reasoning for letting that slide. I guess I would have to experience the novel to see if they really needed each other - but for now, I will take your word. Maybe I will pick this one up sometime, if I see it on sale or something, because I have so many other books that I really want. Hehe. Lovely review.

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  9. I kind of do and don't like this premise. I like how you've set it up, I like how it's pointing out something that could be believable -- rate of teen suicide exponentially increasing. I like how there might be some kind of government program. I don't like the "all of your past" had to contribute thing. On one end, I feel like that just can't exist ever even though it's trying to present itself as realistic; on another end, I remember arguments against "The Memory Pill" being that memories make us who we are, so the pill shouldn't exist, etc. etc. so that attitude twisted = potentially dangerous. But I admit this is also why I wasn't hugely interested in this one just because it sounds a tad like a typical dystopian, with the handlers, with the harsh rules about school and life, hiding negative feelings... And nowhere to turn, not even to your parents. Obviously frightening world but *shrug* It sounds like you quite liked how this one realized its premise though.

    Only spit at the book if the couple is all like you're-my-everything? You're a pacifist :P. "I hate codependant relationships, but there was a need for this one. Who else could they trust? Without the other one there, their horrible home lives, the lurking doom of The Program, and the rising depression, what do they have to live for?" I dislike them too, but even recognizing that reasoning for the intense romance to exist... It's like one other thing stacked against my other prejudices. If there's a reason for this thing, then the world should make sense. You know what I mean? Do you ever feel like you have an allotted number of flaws a book is allowed to have before you're like eh, I won't read or ...? Not really flaws, I guess, but things that would turn you off.

    "It's when you watch a show/movie and you know something will pop out or you know that the wrong person will walk in, but your heart still constricts when it does. " <-- WORST FEELING EVER. I am so easily startled that ugh. Ugh. But it is a good feeling when you're reading about it, and I'm glad your experience worked out :).

    "The nurses and doctors, the typical bad people that seriously make me wonder how anybody can think that the bad thing they're doing is actually the right thing." <-- Some of the most scary villains are the ones who hold such wrong beliefs. Wrong actions - we do those a lot and we can try to correct for them next time, but how often is it that we change our minds? Our beliefs? *shudder* so if the Program did ever exist... *shudder*

    Can I just say that I love how you've parsed this review by parts :D?

    "However, I do have to say that the whole concept of losing your memory terrifies me." Me too. That's why I like 8 scrapbooks/photo albums. And even now, sometimes, when I look at them, even with captions, I don't always remember. "You don't remember who you are, what you did, or anything about yourself. The only thing you do have is what your parents and The Program tells you, which you can bet are lies." <-- This is a pretty good spin on the typical amnesia trope. Sounds like it realizes that potential more than a lot of other books in dystopia with that plot point do.

    "How do the officials not see that? Yes, I know this is fiction." <-- I wouldn't cross that out. That's like the frustration in mystery novels when you already know the answer and you're just waiting for the MC to catch up. That, but the world in dystopian novels when they don't make sense. *shrug*

    I'm glad you got invested in the book :).

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