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In THE PROGRAM, suicide has become an epidemic among teenagers. To fight this, the government has established The Program, ... but it also has a side effect: it leaves participants stripped of their memories, life-less shells that lack all sense of personality.
What intrigued me: A killer premise. (No pun intended)
...I don't get it?
I love the idea, but I think this novel severely lacks in execution. If you have such an interesting premise, the world building and characters are the most important thing to make it work. I didn't really understand why and how suicide can become an epidemic, the teenagers get depressed and then they just commit suicide as a consequence?
That premise is just confusing to me and I didn't really get it. The protagonist Sloane mentions several times that she doesn't want to die, yet knows that she'll eventually will kill herself. Suicide isn't treated as a mental illness, but more like getting bit by zombie and subsequently turning into a mindless shell. The depressed are even called "infected". With topics like these, you have to be extra sensitive and try not to make it patronizing.
Young is simply unable to get me really invested in the story. A huge part of that are the already established relationships. James and Sloane's relationship didn't really interest me until halfway into the novel. I only started really getting invested in the story with the introduction of Dr. Warren, Sloane's therapist in The Program, who points out how her and James aren't really in love, only co-dependent on each other. Basically the whole novel explores Sloane and James' relationship: Flashbacks, filler scenes, reflection monologues etc. If you don't like him from the get-go, you'll skim a lot of this.
Weak MC and a Lot of Co-Dependency
Sloane and James have zero chemistry. I have hardly ever read a book with so little chemistry between the main characters. Neither of them really has a personality at all and they seem very exchangeable and boring. You don't really get to know either of them until half of the book is already through and by then I couldn't really sympathize with either of them. I like that Young decides to base their need for survival on their love for each other, and therefore the established relationship is necessary, but ... eh.
The love triangle is done very lazily and I'm not a fan of characters that constantly need to be protected. Sloane is always at the mercy of some guy. Either it's James, or the creepy, rape-y employee of The Program, or the other love interest Realm. The novel has a strong premise, interesting beginning, but loses itself completely trying to make Sloane's and James' love story epic. It's not epic. It's exhausting, actually.
Overall: Do I Recommend?I had too high expectations. The premise is wonderful, but the novel just couldn't keep my interest for very long. It's just too long.
Published: April 30th 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA / Dystopia
"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." (Source: Goodreads)