hi guys! today i'm reviewing 'the program' by suzanne young! 'the program' is set in the near future where teenage suicide has become a massive epidemic, so much so that the government has introduced 'the program' which is a kind of therapy/medication treatment for depressed teenagers that removes suicidal thoughts and is essentially robbing teenagers of their memories. it's centered around this group of friends - sloane, james, miller, and lacey - as they try to fight the program and keep their identities.
before i get into the review, can i just say how BEAUTIFUL the covers are?! both on the dust jacket and on the hardcover itself- i love it! it makes so much difference when a publisher goes the extra mile to make the actual hardcover stunning too. anyway, let's get started!
*WARNING! there will be spoilers from this point on! not huge spoilers that ruin a massive plot twist or anything, but they're still spoilers!*
other than the introduction of the program, and this really incredible medication (one pill acting as a truth serum, another pill wiping the discussed memories), i found the book to be very, very realistic. obviously it's set several years in the future with a strong sci-fi element but the whole setting was completely plausible to me, and i have no trouble believing that this epidemic is something that could easily happen. other than the general scenario, the things that the characters do were very similar to what we know now; the school scenes, what the characters did to hang out with their friends, and so on, it was all very REAL.
one thing i absolutely adored about this book is that, unlike most YA i've read, it didn't gloss over the issue of sex. it wasn't overly graphic or anything, but it was very honest, which is definitely a huge step in the right direction. i felt like the topic of sex was addressed in a way that teenagers would address it themselves in a real conversation - not giving explicit details but not being shy about it either, which i think is the PERFECT approach for YA. it really helped in making the characters relationships, especially that of james and sloane, seem so much more realistic and believable.
however, one thing that i felt was a bit far-fetched was how easily sloane developed relationships with her previous friends almost immediately after coming out of the program. the very first 'returner' that sloane met was her old friend lacey, and then she didn't really meet or speak to anybody other than her?! plus, sloane was considered to be a troublemaker whilst in the program, and so was james, so i doubt that the government, or whoever invented the program, would've put sloane and james in the same maths class, never mind letting them sit together. it just seemed like a massive coincidence that the only 2 returners sloane would speak to would end up being her best friend and her boyfriend. other than that though, i felt that, again, the relationships seemed very genuine and i really felt for the characters.
i felt that the approach to therapy and the characters reaction to the program was very realistic, and was very similar to things i've read in fiction about mental illness (such as 'the bell jar' and 'it's kind of a funny story') but also it was very similar to my own personal experiences with that kind of situation, which again added to the realism of the plot. i also felt like seeing sloane (the narrator) transition from 'infected' to 'cured' was very interesting, and it was done so subtly and slowly that it really felt gradual, like an actual recovery would be, instead of the dramatic change you can often see in characters in YA. however, one thing i felt that was kind of weird to include was this new drug, 'quikdeath', which essentially is a suicide pill. like i said, other than the program and the suicide epidemic, the setting seemed very true to modern-day america, and then there was just this single random new item shoved in, which seemed kind of odd. plus, not only was it just shoved in there, it also made NO SENSE for the whole plot. okay, so maybe it's not that far-fetched to consider that one day we might create a suicide drug, but for that drug to be readily available to teenagers during a SUICIDE EPIDEMIC which they're trying so hard to overcome?! it would just not happen.
i went into this book thinking it was just a stand-alone, and for the whole book i was like, "yeah this doesn't need to be a series, sloane got sick, she recovered, she'll get back with james, great!" but the story wasn't resolved by the ending, and instead we got a crazy amazing epilogue that totally changed the whole book for me! i mean, that epilogue! like WHAT?! i then quickly did some crazy searching on goodreads and found that there is a sequel, 'the treatment' which i need to get my hands on immediately! i need to know what happens!
i feel really bad when i write reviews because i tend to ALWAYS enjoy the books i read, and then, when considering what i could say in a review, i usually just mention negative points, when really i LOVED reading 'the program'. i thought it was great and i gave it 5 stars on goodreads! so i hope you'll take that into consideration when you read this review, and when you read 'the program', which you should, because it was amazing. i can't wait to read 'the treatment' and let you guys know what i thought of that too!
thanks for reading! :)