I was quickly running through my list of ‘dystopian to read’ novels, and was on what I thought of as my Tier B list while waiting for sequels to be published by my fave authors when I started on The Program. Therefore, my expectations were low for this story by Suzanne Young. Well I owe heran apology as I was thoroughly intrigued by the concept of copycat suicides as a disease that could be predicted and cured.
In an age where there’s so much pressure for people to be successful, have great families and thriving social lives, is it ok to sometimes be anxious or depressed? If you are a teen shouldn’t that be automatic? You don’t have to work to support yourself, you don’t have to deal with marital issues or the stress of having kids, life should be great, right? So why are teens across the nation committing suicide at an alarming rate? In a panic, the government and parents jump to a cure that may be worse than the disease itself.
In schools teens have to take daily assessments measuring their feelings and they cannot be seen crying in public without risking drawing the attention of the ominous monitors who if they think someone has the ‘disease’ take away the at risk team to a treatment center that is part of The Program, where the therapy may end up being worse than the cure for the teens taken there.
It’s the last place Sloane wants to go. Although it was very difficult for her to cope with her brother’s suicide, she has a lot to live for. After all, she is dating hot James, her brother’s best friend. However, the sickness closes in on her when her best friend, rebellious Lacey, is infected and taken away. After she undergoes treatment, she returns but is not the same person. Just like all those who have been treated, her memories are gone, including those of Miller, her former boyfriend and a friend of Sloane and James too. Lacey even looks different, more conservative Stepford wives vibe, than rebel teen. When Miller begs his friends to drive him to Lacey’s new school, they are concerned. It doesn’t help when Miller approaches Lacey and there isn’t any reaction.
Sloane feels increasingly under pressure by her parent’s scrutiny, all parents appear to be monitoring their children closely and if they think they are infected, they will often turn their own child in rather than risk their death. When James becomes depressed, Sloane fights to keep him going and avoid the eyes of adults and the government, but when he is taken she quickly follows and what she finds is a horror show.
She fights to hold onto her memories of her true love, but the drugs start draining those away. Luckily, she has an ally in a fellow patient, Realm, though even he has trouble protecting her from the creepy handler Roger who insinuates that he can help her save a memory or two, but for a very specific price. As Sloane struggles to hold on not only to James, but herself, Realm plays an increasingly important role in her life, but is he even exactly what he seems?