Book Review: The Program

The Program CoverBook: The Program by Suzanne Young

Published April 2013 by Simon Pulse|302 pages

Where I Got It: nook store

Series: The Program #1

Genre: YA Dystopic

You can find The Program on goodreads & Suzanne Young on Twitter, Facebook, and her website

Goodreads Summary: 

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.

What I Thought: 

The Program is definitely an interesting book…I liked it, but it’s also a book that I have mixed feelings about.  There is something oddly unsettling (maybe even disturbing) about this book.

I mean, the book focuses on suicide as epidemic, with having to go into The Program at the first sign of a problem.  Teens get flagged in the system, and they have to fill out a questionnaire every morning, and you really have to show no emotion whatsoever if you don’t want to end up in The Program. Depression and suicide is stigmatized to the point of kids going through this horrible treatment, and I think that’s part of why it’s so unsettling.  Treatment for mental illness is good, but this treatment?  It definitely scares me.  This government’s way of dealing with suicide is horrible on so many levels, and totally not the best way to deal with it.  I think it’s also unsettling because it’s something I can also see happening.  If erasing someone’s memories means that they won’t commit suicide…I can see why parents agree to it, and why it could come up as a solution to deal with it.  But as someone who’s dealt with it…I wouldn’t want that part of me erased, no matter how painful.  Especially if I didn’t remember people who mattered to me.

The idea that depression and suicide are related to memories that need to be erased didn’t completely sit well with me. Depression and memories may be the case for some people, but it’s not as simple or as linked as the book makes it seem, because depression can be caused by so many things, and not just memories that need to be erased.  I just wish we knew more about why it’s considered an epidemic and how the treatment came to be.

Also: the idea that suicide/depression is an infection that can be passed around definitely makes me not happy.

The Program definitely reminds me of Delirium, and it’s definitely different than a lot of other dystopic books I’ve read. It’s definitely interesting, and I’m kind of curious about where things are going, especially with the epilogue.  I’m not sure how I feel about the epilogue, because it was totally unexpected, and I’m really wondering how we get from the last chapter to the epilogue that takes place 2 years later.

I think the first part of the book is definitely the most interesting, and I think it’s because it’s the part that deals with suicide the most.  I was still intrigued by Sloane’s time in the program and what life was like for after leaving the program.  I feel like the tension that we see in the first part of the book drop off in the rest of the book.

Let’s Rate It:

I know it seems like I didn’t like The Program, but I did!  There is something compelling about the program and how kids end up there, and why it only affects teens (but not adults) and so many details I feel like we didn’t get in this book.  I’m not sure if I’m interested enough to keep reading this series, but I might pick up the next book sometime in the future.  The Program gets 3 stars.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Program

  1. I happened to really love this book, and I can understand why you would find it so unsettling because it is. Like you said , the way the government handle depression is horrendous. To me, in a way, it felt like Suzanne Young was using this book to show that people’s way of handling depression and mental illness is still shocking, sometimes its pretty crazy to think some people out there still get bullied for having either. (I know that the chances of her actually using it as a motive for the book are next to none, but its nice to think it any way).

    great review. 🙂

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