Author: Suzanne Young
Series: The Program Series Series
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publish Date: April 30th, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Young Adult
In this “gripping tale for lovers of dystopian romance” (Kirkus Reviews), 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.
Note: This book has a suicide trigger warning.
Over the past several years, I’ve certainly read my fair share of dystopian novels. And to be honest, I’m getting very tired of the genre in general. After you’ve read enough dystopians, they all start to sound similar – the oppressive government, the new rules and regulations, the unhappy teens who are trying to rebel, the unfortunate romance(s) that get torn apart, etc. Contrary to my preconceived notion of “I’m going to hate The Program because it’s just another dystopian,” I’m happy to announce that I absolutely fell in love with the characters, plot, and book in general. My heart is currently in several tattered pieces, and I’ve significantly depleted my supply of tissues.
Since there have been an exorbitant number of dystopian novels published within the last decade, it’s challenging to craft an entirely original premise. Authors often unintentionally utilize similar themes, rules, etc. as their predecessors. Therefore, while reading The Program, I found that it reminded me of both Delirium by Lauren Oliver and Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. All three series revolve around a society which promotes a procedure that essentially brainwashes its teenage participants, turning them into shells of their former selves. Thankfully, the respective plots of these series differed significantly, so I was able to look past the subtle nuances that they had in common.
The plot was both original and exciting with quite a few twists and turns, as well as extreme backstabbing on several occasions (you’ve been warned!). The concept of not knowing whom I could trust and which characters were friends versus foes kept me on the edge of my seat. My one complaint was the painfully slow 150 pages in the middle of the book in which Sloane entered into a monotonous, seemingly never-ending cycle or daily routine. The beginning and end of the novel, however, completely entranced me.
One of my favorite components of the novel was the adorable, made-me-bawl-my-eyes-out romance. It wasn’t the shallow, stereotypical, love at first sight phenomenon and consisted of heartfelt conversations and sweet gestures. Most importantly, it wasn’t a one-sided relationship. Both Sloane and James were equally invested and dependent upon the relationship, relying solely on one another to make it through another day. I also enjoyed how open they were with one another – there was no intentional, underhanded deceit taking place, which likely contributed to the longevity of their relationship. Their romance utterly destroyed me. Perhaps reading this on Valentine’s Day wasn’t the best idea…
Sloane wasn’t whiney, annoying, or a constant damsel in distress, all of which are hard to come by in the dystopian genre. She undeniably held her own and refused to give up on her opinions, beliefs, and loved ones. Her resilience was certainly admirable and served as one of the driving factors in the novel, which is extremely out of character for a stereotypical YA protagonist.
“James is the best at hiding the pain, disguising the feelings. He knows what it takes to stay out of The Program. He’ll keep us safe.
James is my newest book boyfriend – he definitely made it into the top 5! He struggled to stay strong for those around him, particularly Sloane, and he sacrificed everything else in the process. He was a lifeline for Sloane, particularly after her brother committed suicide. He was kind, caring, and selfless, each of which broke my heart a little more with every page.
I loved Young’s writing style, particularly her ability to draw a reader in and invest him/her completely in the characters and plot. I loved how she retold the past through a series of flashbacks that were interspersed throughout the narrative, providing a new perspective on Sloan, James, and Brady. Furthermore, Young did an excellent job of varying Sloan’s narration when she was heavily medicated, presenting the world around her in an entirely new light.
Overall, I couldn’t put The Program down and ended up finishing it within 24 hours. I would definitely recommend it, even if you’re becoming tired of and reluctant to read dystopians. It has some unique twists and turns, complex characters, and a romance to die for, all of which landed it among my favorite books of all time.
|Plot & Premise||4/5 Cauldrons|
|Writing Style||5/5 Cauldrons|