The Program: A Book Review

Posted May 6, 2015 by Carlisa in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

The Program: A Book ReviewThe Program by Suzanne Young
Also by this author: The Treatment, The Remedy
Series: The Program #1
Published by Simon Pulse on April 30, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, YA
Pages: 405
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

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.

I put off reading this book for a while because this genre has almost become cliché. A dystopian story with romance and blah blah blah, been there, done that. You know. But alas, I saw it at the library week and I grabbed it on impulse. And I am so glad I did because I loved this book. It was fast-paced, original, and unpredictable. 

Basically, it’s the complete opposite of Delirium by Lauren Oliver. In that book, the government declared love an epidemic and started it from society. Here, suicide has become the epidemic especially in teenagers. To fix this, they started the ominously-named Program. If signs of depression are shown in a teenager, they’ll get reported and sent to the Program where no one really knows exactly what happens. All they know is that the “returners” come back six weeks later with no memory of their closest friends or romances, but seemingly happy.

The concept for this book is so interesting because it’s not a normal dystopian. The world hasn’t almost ended and there hasn’t been some giant explosive catastrophe that leads the government to step in. Instead suicide and depression have escalated to the point that 1 out of every 3 teenagers would kill themselves. The book says, “Teen suicide was declared a national epidemic–killing one in three teens–nearly four years ago. It always existed before that, but seemingly overnight handfuls of my peers were jumping off buildings, slitting their wrists–most without any known reason. Strangely enough, the rate of incidence among adults stayed about the same, adding to the mystery.” This paragraph intrigued me because I want (and/or need) to know why the rate has increased. But I’m not going to get into that. It’s just so interesting to me because out of all the dystopian novels out there (at least of the ones I’ve read), this one seems the most plausible, like it actually could happen. 

Bah, I love concepts and interesting things and I just love it.

For the record, I don’t love suicide or depression. Just throwing that out there.

Okay, but really the idea of this novel is what makes it a five for me. I had one question plague me throughout the story. These young kids are constantly in fear of showing any sad or frustrated emotion because it could them shipped off to the Program. So instead they hide these emotions and they build up and escalate and this makes everything so much worse. Sloane, the main character, kind of addressed this at one point, saying, “It’s a question we ask ourselves: Would we commit suicide without The Program, or does it help drive us there?” Boom, throw down on the government. This whole idea really just makes you think and makes you realize that sometimes regulation is not the answer.

But besides the idea, I also really feel in love with the characters. They were all very unique and likable (except if they weren’t supposed to be likable…*cough Roger cough*) and complex and just overall well-rounded. It’s so hard for me to talk about this without giving anything away but I LOVED Sloane as the narrator in this particular story. It was fascinating to see her mind and I’m really glad Suzanne Young chose to do first person perspective because anything else wouldn’t have worked nearly as well.

Also, just throwing this out there that I have talked to people who reject this book as one with a love triangle. And while there is a girl and two boys with romantic feelings intermixed in there…it just doesn’t work out like a normal love triangle does. I never got the love triangle vibe but I can see where people would…if that makes sense. So if you’re against those love triangles, read the book. And if you love those love triangles, you could twist it that way!

Finally I’ll end with the ending. Bah. This ending was so good. It’s almost hard to express my feelings after reading the ending because it definitely was not a cliffhanger. I know what’s going to happen. She set it up beautifully without giving away too much. But then right at the end there’s an epilogue that completely warped everything that I thought was true the entire book. And then it ended. Ah. I still can’t get over it.

Brava, Suzanne Young. Brava. I’m going to the library today to get the sequel.


  • Ivy

    I’m glad you enjoyed this book! I myself didn’t find it that interesting due to the main character, Sloane. Maybe if I read the sequel I’d like it more than the first book.

    • What didn’t you like about her? I’m interested in your opinion!
      I’m reading the sequel right now and hoping to do a review soon! I’m not as engrossed as I was in the first one, but I’m still just in the beginning. We’ll have to see how it goes.

      • Ivy

        The way she was portrayed bothered me. I don’t know exactly what it was, since it has been a while since I’ve read it now, but I do remember that she started to annoy me. Maybe she was too dependent for me. There must have been something. I didn’t write out a review for The Program, unfortunately, so my own thoughts are lost to me.

        But I like to see people enjoy books that I didn’t, so it I’m glad that you did. It’s a shame that you aren’t enjoying the sequel as much. Hopefully it gets better. I look forward to the review. =)

  • This one has been on my TBR for a while. I’m so glad you gave it five stars though. I need to put it higher on my list!