Katie Reads: The Program

A student of mine mentioned having read and liked this series, so I decided to give it a shot.

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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.

First off the bat, this book has major depression, suicide, and self-harm triggers, so if reading about those things upsets you, then this is not the book for you. It’s also definitely at the high end of YA (really it’s more like YA but for adults) given all these things and some sexual scenes.

There are some flaws in world building, as in real life depression doesn’t really work the way it does in the book, and we never get a good explanation for why there’s a sudden spike in teen depression and suicide (maybe it’s addressed in the sequels?). However, if you can accept that this book isn’t giving an accurate depiction of depression as it is, but as the quasi-fictional version presented then it’s an interesting premise.

The first part of the book was a little slow for me, because it was setting the stage by showing the romance between Sloane and James, and romance isn’t my favorite genre. Once SPOILERS James got taken into the program, followed shortly by Sloane, things started to get really interesting and I had a hard time putting the book down. The idea of being able to take away and erase memories is something that I find horrifying and yet fascinating. Young did a good job building the suspense and tragedy as Sloane slowly loses her memories of James and her brother. Sloane’s attempts to piece together what happened after she’s lost her memories was also really well done.

The romance had elements of teenage !I can’t live without you! desperation. That said, it was a flawed relationship between two people driven together by grief. Given the circumstances of the book, I was more willing to buy into the idea of an all encompassing romance than I normally am.

Overall, a gripping read. I stayed up late to read it and want to find the sequel.

Stay magical readers!

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