I have read a lot of dystopian and apocalyptic books, so I recognize a unique story when I see it. That’s what attracted me to this series by Suzanne Young. The first book in the series, The Program, described a world where suicide has become an epidemic, more of a disease than the mental illness we see it as. A dystopian system, The Program, is created to initially help teens and stop them from killing themselves, but despite all its good intentions, the power The Program has over its patients quickly evolves into something much more controlling and sinister. I was fascinated by the fresh idea in this story….no natural disasters, no zombies, no high technology surveillance of citizens, none of the usual jumping off points for this genre.
However, The Treatment did not live up to the prior book. After the world building and character development of the first book, this one just became the typical “on the run with rebels” storyline. Although the main characters of Sloane and James dominate, a fellow rebel Dallas, was interesting, but we never really become as invested in her as in their experience. Another rebel, Cas, is weakly drawn. Micheal Realm pops up to of course create the typical love triangle, though why Sloane has any positive feelings toward him I could not fathom. Yes, he has saved her, but he is also selfish and manipulating of everyone and in many cases his actions are detestable.
As Realm only gave Sloane one pill, The Treatment, that will return erased memories but with potential dire side effects, and much of the plot focuses on it. It’s sort of like the dilemma of which pill to take in The Matrix. Not only do Sloane and James have to wrestle with whether one of them should take it, The Program is also very interested in this medication that could end their whole system and it makes the couple an even bigger target.
The idea that the rebel movement only consists of a handful of teens makes it rather implausible. Yes, they attend Suicide Clubs to try to recruit members, but instead of a David and Goliath situation, this seems more like a flea to an elephant, rather than a mouse to an elephant situation. Also, as high tech surveillance isn’t being used, and the U.S. is a big country, it’s also implausible how The Treatment can even find the rebels, searching for someone anywhere in the U.S. would be a bit like a needle in a haystack. The rebels are not only outnumbered, but there doesn’t seem to be any plan as to how they can stop The Program, all they do is keep running. In the end, Suzanne Young trots out a tired plot device involving the power of the press to take down a government conspiracy. Really? That’s all it takes to defeat such a powerful organization?
The other issue I has with this book was that there was nothing but a vague theory given for the suicide ‘disease’, some mumbo jumbo about kids on anti-depressants, combined with copycat suicides, and teen pressure….if that was the case, wouldn’t kids now be offing themselves right and left?
I think even the author knew this final book was a little weak, so instead of ending the book with a conclusion about what happened to Sloane and James, the final pages are about the Dallas character, yes that is something a bit different, but different doesn’t save this one, I felt let down by something that started out as a very promising read in the first book and ran out of steam in this second story.