by Suzanne Young
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 30th 2013
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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've made to each other, it's getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in.
When I first read the summary of The Program I thought it had so much promise, but at the same time I knew that it was the kind of story that could go one of two ways: It could either be a thought-provoking look at what can lead to teen suicide, or it could be a dystopian novel that completely exploits it's subject matter. Unfortunately, The Program turned out to be the latter.
If I were to sum up The Program in one word it would be angst.
THIS BOOK HAS SO MUCH TEEN ANGST.
The first third of the novel is almost entirely made up of the two protagonists, Sloane and James, having an angst off. They were both so emotional, yet unemotional and they spent all their time talking about how depressing their life was. To be honest it made me feel depressed just reading about it.
And then Suzanne Young went and decided to have the only character I actually liked commit suicide. To make matters worse, this particular suicide was pretty much just used as a plot device to get Sloane and James into The Program. I was not a happy camper guys. Not a happy camper.
As the book progressed it was pretty much just more angst, on top of more angst, with a side of, what else, ANGST. "I'm going to forget James." "James is going to forget me." "James will never love me again." "MY LIFE IS OVER."
CRY ME A RIVER.
The plot finally did pick up, but only about 2/3rds in and by then it really wasn't enough to save the story for me.
I've talked a lot about how the angst was just too excessive in this novel, but that certainly wasn't the only problem. In fact that wasn't even the main problem though I've harped on it the most in this review thus far. The true problem with The Program is that it took several extremely serious subjects, suicide and sexual abuse amongst other things, and instead of dealing with them in a respectful manner it turned them into plot devices for YA dystopian fodder. Nothing in The Program is even close to being scientifically or medically sound, and it pretty much makes a mockery of suicide and mental illness. Don't even get me started on the sexual abuse factor!
I hoped (though I probably should have known better) that The Program could be an intelligent look at teen suicide. Instead it's a bloated dystopian novel that is full of teen angst and uses difficult subjects as nothing more than plot devices. There was so much potential but nothing came of it. It makes me sad. :(
If you want to read a dystopian novel that's heavy on angst and light on smart, thought-provoking content, then I'd give The Program a read. Otherwise I would skip it.