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.
-A copy was provided by Simon & Schuster Canada for review-
If I wasn't so bored with dystopians lately, this one might have been more enjoyable for me. Although it has a little contemporary feel to it more than most, and the plot direction it takes is different from the expected and clichés "run and hide from the big bad government", in the end I still felt that it was yet another dystopian novel that doesn't particularly stand out from the rest.
A little reminiscent of Delirium, The Program involves teen suicide and how its become an epidemic, and the cure involves wiping them out into a clean slate. This means memory removal of anything that could cause negative feelings. Thus, if you're a teenager and you show any sort of negative emotions like crying, you better make sure no one sees you! I liked the idea of this world and I personally found it much more believable than Delirium, in the sense that I can see how society agreed to this mind erasing program if it will save their children from suicide (I had difficulty believing that society could be convinced love was a disease--but that is a review for another time >.<). I found the system intimidating and quite the paradox--some rather die than go through the program if they're flagged, for others, having your best friend, or anyone you love, not remember who you are is heartbreaking in every sense turning you emotionally vulnerable. Although it delivers a fairly predictable story arc, The Program is ultimately a tragic love story and this part was done quite well.
While the plot itself was enjoyable, I did not find myself connecting to the characters as much as I would have liked. They were likeable characters, but Sloane didn't strike me as an especially memorable MC. Same goes for the side characters, Sloane makes a few friends throughout the story, and none of them were well developed. They were used as nothing more than "extras". There is even one character who was kind of a creep for the bigger part of the book that annoyed me senselessly. He seemed to always be sneaking around intimidating Sloane every chance he got, and I didn't see the point of it. The book could have gone without him; he was gross, his storyline felt random and out of place, and when he had done his "task" to help the plot along (which could have been achieved without him), he was just gone and forgotten. He might be back in the sequel, but really I don't see the point--it seems his only role is to add unnecessary ickiness.
In the end, The Program is a love story. The main reason I didn't love this book is due to my distance from the romance itself. I have a hard time falling for a romance when one is already established beforehand. I love seeing connections strike and relationships bloom, when I get into a book with it pre-existing, I don't get that fluttery young love feeling towards it as much. There were flashbacks that showed the strength of their love for each other which helped, though this helped me understand their relationship, it didn't leave me swooning over it. Therefore, while I cared about the protagonist and what she was going through, and I deduced the implied sadness or tragic nature of it all, I felt like I was more of a curious observer than someone invested into the heart of it.
With so may previously failed dystopians this year, The Program is easily one of the better ones I've read lately. If I hadn't read so many I might have given this one more slack; as it stands I liked it but I don't see it sticking out from the masses in the cluster of dystopians in my memory.
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