Monday, April 29, 2013

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Title: The Program
Author: Suzanne Young
Series: Program, book #1
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Source: ARC received from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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.

Imagine a world where you were likelier to commit suicide than graduate high school.  And imagine that the only cure for this epidemic was to erase any and all tainted memories...any memories that might lead to depression.  Would you take the cure?  Or would you rather die your own way, painful but real memories intact?  What if that choice was taken from you?

I'm not going to lie; I'm a little burned out on dystopian novels.  And so I was a little hesitant to pick The Program up, even though I was excited about it when I first discovered it on Goodreads last summer.  But it helped that I'd already read and enjoyed the author's previous work.  And although I noticed a lot of similarities between this novel and several others like it -- one reviewer on Goodreads even said it sounded like "Delirium but with suicide" and I'm inclined to agree -- I think it's the execution that really made The Program an enjoyable read.

Sloan and James are trying to hold it together long enough for them to both turn eighteen and be out from under the threat of the Program.  But with more and more of their friends and classmates becoming infected, it's hard to hold on to hope that they'll make it out of there with their memories complete.  Their agony and anguish after dealing with loss upon loss -- whether to the Program or to suicide -- was so palpable, it nearly broke my own heart.  This story was so intensely sad and the characters were even more so.  But it's not just a story about suicide or even about bucking the system.  It's also about an enduring love, one that I rooted for from the very beginning.
     James turned and looked over at me.  "You know I'm never going to be able to not kiss you again, right?" he said.  "For the rest of my life, every time I look at you, I'll have to kiss you."
     I smiled.  "The rest of our lives is a long time, James.  I'm sure there will be other lips."  The minute I said it, I hated the words.  But James just slowly shook his head.
     "Naw," he said, rolling to lean over me once again.  "These are the only ones I'll ever want."  And he kissed me again.
The romance in this book was so sweet, beginning as a platonic friendship and morphing into a full-blown love story.  Those are always my favorite kind of romance, where the friendship existed first.  Sloan and James have known each other forever because James was Brady's best friend, before Brady killed himself.  Brady, who was Sloan's slightly older brother.  They had already been secretly dating before the tragedy, but they were the only reason each other survived it afterward.  Seeing how close they were and sensing what was coming, it made it really difficult to read on and see how their world was about to deteriorate.
     "I think I broke my femur," James says, as he lies underneath me. "On the console when you were attacking me? I think I broke it."
     I laugh. "Shut up."
     "I didn't mind though," he says conversationally. "Like when you bit my shoulder. It was—"
     I reach up and put my hand over his mouth, not moving it even after he licks my fingers. "Shut up." As if agreeing, he pulls me closer, resting his cheek on top of my head. When it's quiet, I move my palm and rest it on his chest.
     "It was nice," he whispers, but not jokingly. "It wasn't weird, either. And that's... kind of weird."
I was pleasantly surprised with the turn the story took, and though it was a little predictable and some of the foreshadowing was fairly obvious, it was still a pretty great novel as a whole.  It was suspenseful, but not to the point that I was screaming "Just tell me what the eff happened to Brady already," or anything like that.  The anticipation always came with a nice build-up, followed by a flashback to answer any lingering doubts.  I'm actually reasonably impressed with the whole effect.  But even more than that, I loved the epilogue.  And I usually don't like epilogues.  But with this one, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the Program, not a wrap-up of the novel.  It was very much appreciated, especially since I learned something that I had otherwise disregarded in the body of the novel.

Yes, you've probably seen this premise, or one like it, before.  But as someone who's also read a ton of dystopian, I can honestly say that this novel is just different enough to stand stand on its own.  And even if it wasn't, you want to meet me.  And regardless of any similarities, it's still a very gripping and engaging story.
     James smiles as he traces his finger over my mouth.  "I think..."  He stops and looks into my eyes, his stare arresting, pinning me in place.  "I think I'm in love with you," he whispers.  "Is that crazy?"
     His words strike my heart, and the ache that's been a constant in my chest goes away completely.   I lick my lips and smile.  "So crazy."
     "Then I guess I love you madly."  And then he leans down and kisses me again.

Rating:   photo 4-1.png 1/2

About the author:

Originally from New York, Suzanne Young moved to Arizona to pursue her dream of not freezing to death. She currently resides in Tempe, where she teaches high school English. When not writing obsessively, Suzanne can be found searching her own tragic memories for inspiration.

Suzanne is the author of several books for teens, including THE PROGRAM, A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL, and A WANT SO WICKED.

Find Suzanne:

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


  1. I haven't read that much dystopian, so any similarities between other books probably won't be noticeable to me. Which I suppose is a good thing, so I really do want to read this. I'm glad you liked it. It's a very interesting premise, since suicide is something you hear about a lot more these days.


    1. Well, some have said that they didn't even feel like it read like a dystopian, so it's really all a matter of opinion, I suppose. Hope you enjoy the book when you get to it!

  2. I love dystopians so I'm looking forward to this one! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Very eager to read this one! I've seen very good things about it thus far. Great review...made me want to read it even more :-)

  4. I am so dying to read this one! Your review made it worse if possible! I love Suzanne Young and I think this sounds like a fabulous read! I'm a little sad to hear the story is predictable but I think the romance will makeup for it :). Thanks so much for sharing!


    1. Yep, the romance overshadows everything in this novel, but in a really good way. :) I think you'll enjoy it, especially if you're already a fan of Suzanne Young.

  5. I ruined our twinsies status! lol I switched the review out last minute because I forgot I needed to add a giveaway to it. OMG those quotes were all flagged in my copy too! Loved James so much. I get the dystopian burn out thing but for some reason this didn't even feel dystopian in a way to me. Great review!

    1. It's okay, Twinsie. :) I'm sure we'll have more opportunities to be review twins. :) Can't wait to see your review of this...especially since you loved James so much. :D

  6. Love, love, love your review! I'm feeling like you with dystopians and it really does sound like Delirium but with suicides. However, I'm giddy that the execution was great. AN ACTUAL FRIENDSHIP FIRST?!?! I thought those were becoming extinct in YA, I'm THRILLED with the romance already, it sounds wonderful :) Gosh, I really do want to meet James. The quotes made me smile!

    1. I know, right?!? I was really impressed with the romance, as well as the novel in general. Glad you liked the quotes...those always help me to gauge if I'll like the writing, so I try to include the good ones. :)

  7. Awesome review. I want to read this one so bad.

  8. Fabulous review! I totally agree with everything you said. I was also a little sick of dystopians but this one ROCKED MY WORLD! I didn't expect it to be so emotional and that's what I loved about it! I'm so happy that you loved this too! Squee!

    1. Squee!!!! :) Maybe this will be the beginning of another good dystopian run? Wouldn't that be awesome?!?

  9. I didn't love Delirium, so a comparison doesn't make me automatically want to pick this up - also it gives me second book love triangle nightmares. I think the idea of a national suicide epidemic is interesting and very sad, though I don't really understand it practically. But hopefully this book would sort that out. Anyway, I love that there's a great romance in this, and I agree that I prefer when the couple knows each other already. It cuts out insta-love and makes a romance make so much more sense. For that alone I would pick this up (I'm a sucker for a good love story). But I may hold off until more of these are released to see. Great review tho.

    1. Erm. Well, there is the possibility of a love triangle, but I really feel that's kind of one-sided and won't be an issue. Especially when certain things come to light in the next novel. Also, the suicide epidemic wasn't really expanded upon in this novel. It focused on the here and now, not the why behind it. But I imagine further installments will touch on that. I just hope the second book isn't an info-dump to make up for the lack of information in this book.

  10. I am so excited about reading this book! I love dystopians and I especially love it when an author manages to come up with a storyline that is unique and really sets it apart from other books. Anyway, thanks for your review and I can't wait to read this!!!

  11. I requested this from the library and am giving it a try. Glad you liked it so much!

    You can find me here: Jen @ YA Romantics

  12. OMG, yes yes yes. This sounds absolutely engaging. I really enjoyed Suzanne's writing style from her other series. This book immediately caught my eye. So glad you really enjoyed it. Can't wait to read it!


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