Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

Rating: 4 1/2 stars
Pub Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: young adult contemporary science fiction
Format/Source: hardcover, borrowed from the library
Status: book 1 of The Program duology

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 first heard about The Program book a few months ago, when it was released, but it slipped my mind until I received a surprise Edelweiss approval for Just Like Fate, which was co-authored by Cat Patrick and of course Suzanne Young. I'm a pretty loyal reader so once I love something an author writes, I will read ALL of their books for the rest of forever. Well, Just Like Fate blew me away so I knew I would love The Program. It was not entirely what I was expecting, which I think was a good thing. I was surprised more than I expected to be.

There's definitely a lot going on in this story. Suzanne did a wonderful job balancing being plot-driven and character-driven. Although The Program is set in the near-future, the cult-like control of The Program on Sloane's community is insane, to the point where it feels much more futuristic like the worlds of Matched or The Giver, but then there are mentions of things like Dateline and MTV. Those little details kept me focused on the fact that this book really is much closer to our time than that of Star Trek or other futuristic sci-fi tales, and that makes it all the scarier, especially when you consider how present teen suicide really has become in the past few years, mostly due to excessive bullying. In The Program, however, the suicide epidemic is a mystery with no known cause. It's treated as an infection, a disease, which spreads from teen to teen like wildfire.

In the first 100 pages, one of Sloane's friends comes back from The Program, one goes in, and one commits suicide. That's a lot to handle right off the bat, a lot of plot. At the same time, things seemed to move really slowly. I say that The Program is very character driven because when there aren't big crazy plot points, a lot of the novel is Sloane's thoughts and memories. In this, I was reminded of Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano, which I recently read. These two books, their stories and their societies, have a lot in common, I think. First, the specific interest of the handler in The Program and that weird lady in Perfect Ruin on the main characters was very alike and very predatory. They both gave me the creeps. Also, Sloane and Morgan both had brothers who attempted suicide, Sloane's brother Brady being successful. These acts inspired that creeptacular interest of the authorities and created the conditions that made both stories possible. Also, in each society, it's dangerous to show certain emotions in public or sometimes even in private for fear of being reported, and the strain on Morgan in Ruin and Sloan in Program is too great for both girls. I think the main difference is the strength of their respective partners. Basil was able to be a steady force for Morgan, but poor James had just as many hits as Sloane, and eventually, he was unable to keep up with that pressure.

This was the biggest surprise to me. The summary is a bit vague, but I assumed from the cover with the boy and girl holding hands while wearing scrubs, that Sloane and James would enter The Program together and that their fight would be keeping each other sane during their stay. I was wrong wrong wrong. James is in and out before Sloane ever gets there, and that really shocked me. James is a huge character, a huge presence, but really, for roughly a third of the novel, he's nothing more than a memory and then, nothing more than the shadow of a memory. So that was my big shock. The revelation that was designed to be the big twist really wasn't, I did see it coming (although this twist was further presented in the epilogue, and that moment DID shock me big time). I think most readers will as well. I don't want to spoil that moment, however, but I will say there is a character in The Program who is remniscent of a character in Aprilynne Pike's Earthbound, and although I actually root for the character in Earthbound to be more successful in one aspect, I think the character in The Program is going to be instrumental in The Treatment.
The Program is a a book that will most likely hit close to home. It's one of those books where I read it and think, "yeah, this could totally happen," and that scares the crap out of my. It's designed to make you think. If you couldn't ever show negative emotion, do the positive ones mean anything? If you're not allowed to cry or yell or be sad or angry or hurt, would you break? If you lost all your memories of everyone you'd ever loved, would you be able to find your way back to them? Would your heart still know them if your mind didn't? What would you be willing to trade for just one memory? These are all questions you will ask yourself. I can't wait for The Treatment. I am a little apprehensive about it because so much happens right at the end of The Program that I wonder how it will all be resolved in only one more book, but I'm really excited to find out the answers to all my questions. Suzanne Young is a very talented writer who can convey a lot in a little time so I have faith that she will more than meet this challenge.

Book Links:

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.

Author Links:


  1. absolutely loved this book! Suzanne's Young's writing is just fantastic!

  2. I've been wanting to read this book for quite awhile but never got around to it. Your review makes me want to read it even more!

    1. I hope you can get to it soon. It's really, really good!

  3. Absolutely loved this book. I could not put it down and I cried a LOT while reading it. So glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Uh oh! Better hide those tears or The Program might come for you. ;)

  4. I absolutely adore this book. SO MUCH. I am so eager to read The Treatment!

  5. Loved this review! I've never heard of this book until now and your thoughts on it make me want to pick it up very soon. :)

  6. Excellent review! Have kicked around starting this, but reluctant to start ANOTHER series. Sounds good though. :)