Sunday, 25 May 2014

Review || The Program by Suzanne Young

The Program (The Program #1) by Suzanne Young ★★☆☆☆
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 handed this book off to my sister this afternoon having promised she could read it when I was done with it. And the first thing she asked me was, "How was it?"

My reaction was, "Ehhhhh?" and to shrug.

So, I feel like that conveys my reaction to this. Hence the 2-star "it was okay" rating.

The concept is interesting but the execution for the most part fell really flat for me. I felt like the strongest part of the book was the beginning, for me. Getting to know Sloane and James, who their friends are, what they've been through, how they're not allowed to grieve properly for fear of being flagged by The Program. It was actually rather poignant in places. And the real depth of their sorrow came through.

But as things progressed, I never really felt attached to anyone. A lot of the exposition in the middle ends up being a lot of "telling" instead of "showing"... which I understood as a device for the narrative (Sloane is baring all to her psychologist) but it never drew me in.

I found the boys in this book rather problematic as well. James, in the beginning, was fine, but as the book progressed I was really confused by his behaviour. Realm is a complex character, but does some horrific things (to Sloane in particular) and then because of how the narrative is framed (and how the plot device works) he's still portrayed as one of the "good guys". I had a really hard time with that.

It's clear that there's more going on here than meets the eye. Realm's behaviour midway through the book gives that away. But it's frustrating because, as I suppose I should've expected, nothing is really resolved at the end of this book. Yes, it's a duology, and yes, I know the intent of the ending is to make me want to keep reading. But everything is so vague and unclear. And instead of it being compelling it was annoying.

As is the norm with most YA dystopians, our heroes are off to join a secret rebellion group at the end of the novel. They'll probably take down the government or something in The Treatment. But it all feels so... unrealistic. I can suspend my disbelief, but there's a limit.

To be fair, this book didn't go down the way I expected it to. But if you're looking for complexity, you'll not find it here. This is a typical one-dimensional YA tale with little depth. I'll probably pick up book 2, just to find out what the heck is actually going on, but it certainly won't be at the top of my list.