Author: Suzanne Young
Publish Date: April 30, 2013 by Simon Pulse
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.
I received the ARC of The Program from Simon Pulse, and like any ARC I get and review, I try to give the book a fair shot. Even if I’m not feeling it. And for the first 118 pages of The Program, I wasn’t really feeling it. Then the plot took a turn and I was seriously hooked.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, so I’ll be brief. The first 118 pages (the part I was kind of bored with) sets up the world that Sloane and her boyfriend live in. Teenage suicide is an epidemic, and of course the government steps in to save the children. But like many other dystopian novels, all the teens know that the governmental course of action is BAD. Adults think it’s GOOD. And the adults are WRONG. In this respect, it read a lot like the 100+ YA novels out there. And there wasn’t much to make it stand out. I didn’t care very much for Sloane. I kind of liked her boyfriend James, but only kinda. And there was lots of dramatic teen angst type whining. Then it takes a crazy turn (which you kind of know is coming, but still. It shakes things up in a good way.)
All of a sudden, Sloane becomes a much deeper character and you actually start to like some of her feisty headstrong ways. In fact, I really admired her as I don’t think I could have been that strong in that situation. There are other characters introduced and they start to be much more likable than the characters in the first part.
Take note: Suzanne Young doesn’t mess around with her characters. They are either good guys or bad guys. There’s only a few that are shades in between. And the bad guys are so very very bad. They're the kind of bad guys you love to hate. The good guys are good...but they’re still flawed enough to be human. It was a nice balance and I enjoyed the interplay between the characters a lot.
Was there romance? Kind of. Are Sloane and James in love? Yes. Are they physical? Yes. But even though the characters are doing things that are R rated, the scenes come off sort of clinical. In Sloane and James’ world, everything is about the Suicide epidemic. As a result, depression and desperation tend to leak into their physical relationship and romance. And then end result tends to feel a little lukewarm on the hot-o-meter.
There is a great cliffhanger ending with enough foreshadowing to make me think that Young is going to write a sequel. And if she does, I’ll pick it up. I liked Sloan and James enough that I want to know how their story progresses.
So when this comes out, go ahead and read it. After the slow start, it has a good storyline and great characters. It's worth it in the end.