Finally getting caught up on some of my backlogged book reviews! You all remember when I was working on finishing up The Program series? I had read the first book back in 2014 but never continued. Well, turns out I never actually posted a review of that book either. Must have been read during a blogging dry spell. Time to fix that, shall we?
About the Book
Title: The Program
Author: Suzanne Young
Series: The Program #1
Genre: YA Dystopian
Dates Read: December 26-28, 2014, reread April 5-18, 2021
Edition Read: Hardcover
Blurb: 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.
This book is at times very difficult to read. Not because it isn’t good – it’s very good, very compelling, very well written. But it is hard to read about suicide and that is pretty much the entire premise of the book. It is as if instead of having a pandemic of COVID-19, it was a pandemic of major depression and it was mostly affecting young people. Pretty scary, right?
If there was a thing that this book does really well, it is capturing what the overwhelming feelings of depression can feel like. It is overwhelming, makes you feel completely out of control and entirely helpless. On top of that, the characters in this book have to try and hide all of their feelings all the time for fear of getting picked up by handlers that are in every school. And it’s not just handlers – some teens are turned in to the program by their parents who believe the Program is the best way to try and save them if they show any warning signs.
The main issue is that the Program is terrifying. SPOILER: Sloane does end up going into the Program. We get a first person view of how her memories are stripped away, and how painful it is when some of them start to break through again. There are other dangers as well, from a handler at the Program who uses the fact that the patients are losing their memories to sexually assault them and get away with it, to another patient in the program who clearly knows more about what is going on that what he lets on.
What makes the story so compelling is the constant tension that is woven into every single page. You can’t put it down. You can’t relax. Even though Sloane and James both go into the Program, you can’t stop hoping that they will find their way back to each other somehow, beating the odds. It also paints a very dark picture of how mental health care could be weaponized and do the exact opposite of what it is supposed to be doing.
The only way to heal from depression or trauma is to learn how to deal with it, how to to coexist with it in a way that still allows you to live and enjoy your life. I have suffered from depression for years. It is always there, always a part of me, but between counseling and medication, I figured out how to work through it. The Program’s methods of “dealing” with depression or trauma is to just try and erase what may have caused it, in this case memories. It doesn’t give any of the patients a means to handle any future issues they may have, and in fact causes further issues because their methods cause real damage.
Overall, a very compelling story with compelling characters that is very disturbing at times but really makes you stop and think.
Goodreads rating: 4 stars
Categories: Books I've Read