Wednesday, February 07, 2024

Book Review: THE PROGRAM #1



Title: The Program #1  

Author: Suzanne Young

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Pages: 416

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐





Ever since a strange epidemic caught hold of teenagers, causing them to give in to suicidal depression, the governments of some states in the US have launched the Program. This faceless entity is always watching and aware of what young people are up to.

The mandatory six-week treatment aims to cure depressed teens by wiping them clean of all their memories, happy and sad alike.

When Sloane Barstow’s brother Brady falls sick and kills himself, she and her boyfriend James Murphy, who was also Brady’s best friend, slowly begin to give in to depression and sorrow. James promises to keep Sloane strong and safe, but the suicide of Miller, their other friend, tips him over and he seeks to kill himself. He is taken away by the Program. Now Sloane is on her own. it’s getting harder to keep a grip on herself. It’s only a matter of time before she gives in, and when that happens, the Program will come for her.

This Program, Book 1 in the series, is written in the first person present tense PoV of Sloane. The book is divided into Part I Uncomfortably Numb, Part II The Program and Part III Wish You Weren’t Here.

We don’t get a sense of what is causing this epidemic of depressive tendencies in young people. All we are told is that teenagers, but not adults, are getting sick. What is this world in which grownups are well adjusted and adult suicide is a thing of the past?

The author’s focus is not on the epidemic, or on what it means to lose one’s memories, and therefore one’s sense of identity. I would have liked the book more if it had had more about the suicides, the grief of those left behind, the grief, mourning and closure.

I didn’t like any of the characters. Sloane was uninteresting. Her only qualities are that she is pretty and good at Maths, or certainly better than James is. And the other characters don’t get much space.

Also, while I am no expert on mental illness, the past that the teens traverse while they contemplate suicide is not as singular as it is portrayed here. In this book, QuikDeath provides a quick fix. Depressive people draw endless loops of spirals in their books.

The Program follows a flawed reasoning, taking from young people their right to grieve openly.

The author’s focus is unfortunately on the romance between Sloane and James. That some things are destined to happen is the conclusion the author wants us to draw.

This book had the makings of a good dystopian novel. Had I known it was a romance, I would not have read it.

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