The Program — Suzanne Young

3/5 stars
Goodreads summary: 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.

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Note: If you have problems with anxiety, depression, and/or self-harm and are avoiding triggers, this book is not for you. You may also want to avoid this review, since I touch upon those topics. 

When I first heard about The Program, I was excited. I’m not 100% sure what I expected it to be—certainly not the World’s Most Realistic Depiction of Teen Depression and Suicide, considering it’s a young adult dystopia—but I wasn’t anticipating the amalgamation of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Delirium that it turned out to be. It was an intense story, one of those “stay up late and read it all in one night” novels, but there were a few factors that kept this from being a four-star read.

As with most young adult dystopias, the premise is interesting, if not entirely realistic: In the world of The Program (which seems fairly close to our current world, timing-wise) teenage depression and suicide has become an epidemic, believed to be a transferrable disease, and having your mind wiped clean by The Program is the only way to ensure survival. Sloane and her boyfriend, James, vowed when Sloane’s brother killed himself that they would take care of each other and protect each other from The Program. Unfortunately The Program’s reach is everywhere, and avoiding it is an exercise in futility.

The description on the dust jacket pitches this as a book about surviving unavoidable depression, suicide, and/or memory-wiping, the main focus is the romance. The big question Suzanne Young seems to be posing in The Program is, “Does love conquer all?” When your memory has been wiped clean and your friends and your boyfriend selectively and systematically removed from your brain, once you’re sent out into the world again—will you find your way back to your old life? Will those people and emotions from your previous life, the ones you swore they’d never take from you—will they return?

The characterization was a little weak. As a protagonist, Sloane didn’t have a whole lot to set her apart from everyone else; the majority of the focus of the book is on her memories as they are being relived and erased and those are, for the most part, about her relationship with James. So they are sweet, and at times they are heartbreaking, but there’s just not a whole lot going on with her beyond that. I felt for her, I really did, especially when she was trying to fight The Program and losing. Sometimes no matter how strong and determined you are, you can’t win. But she was a pretty generic white bread type, all tragic for most of Part I, letting James fight for her, and that negatively colored my perspective of her for the majority of the rest of the book.

But oh my god, the emotional aspects of this book left me raw. In case the note at the start of this review didn’t put you off, let me say I’m in an excellent place right now, mentally and emotionally, and parts of The Program made me feel claustrophobic and panicky and brought up past feelings and experiences that were almost overwhelming. The Program was so gripping, though, that I didn’t want to give up on it. Instead, I took some time at a few points to put the book down and sort of breathe through it and remind myself it was fiction.

And reflecting on it now, I think that is an indication that Young knows how to write about depression and fear and helplessness in a way that fully immerses you in those feelings. Even though I didn’t necessarily agree with the way The Program presented these issues as something that just happens to you, completely unavoidably, and the only cures are to either let the Big Bad erase your memory or commit suicide, I can’t help but applaud Suzanne Young’s ability to take the feelings of depression and isolation and render them so raw and realistic that I doubt anyone could read this book and not say, “Wow, so that’s what it feels like.”

The sequel, The Treatment, is set for an April 2014 release, and it’s going on my “like white on rice” TBR shelf because despite The Program’s flaws, I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. I can’t wait to see what happens to Sloane & Co., whether anyone beats The Program, and if there are any explanations regarding what led to the major flaw in logic that convinced adults the best way to treat an epidemic of teenage depression was to put more pressure on them to appear healthy and, if they failed at that, take them away from their lives and erase their memories and personalities. (Because really, guys? Really?)

Your move, Young.

Hiatus.

Wow, I haven’t posted anything on here since June? I didn’t realize it had been quite that long, and for those of you who noticed me missing, sorry to disappear without warning! I had some Issues of a Personal Nature that had to be addressed, and then I kept getting sick, and I didn’t have a whole lot of time for reading—let alone writing reviews. But everything has been resolved and my various ailments seem to have subsided, and I’m finally at the point where I feel like I can read books and then form moderately coherent thoughts about them.

I’ve recently finished Origin by Jennifer Armentrout (WOW!!) and the Drake Chronicles series by Alyxandra Harvey (much less wow until the fifth book, so I’m not sure I’ll be reviewing them). I finished Tammara Webber’s Here Without You yesterday and am still recovering. I’m trying to work my way through my tragically neglected TBR stack, but I’m constantly being sidetracked by all the new and new-ish releases. How about you? Read any good books lately?

Look for a review or two in the next week or so. This post is mostly to let you all know I am back on the horse, for what it’s worth.

Article 5 — Kristen Simmons

2.5/5 stars
Goodreads summary: New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned.

The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.

There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don’t come back.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it’s hard for her to forget that people weren’t always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It’s hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.

Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow.

That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings—the only boy Ember has ever loved.

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Top Ten Tuesday

toptentuesday

 

 

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish is Top Ten Best Beach Reads. I’m not generally one to discriminate between “beach read” and “non-beach read”–I typically just lug along whatever I’m reading at the time–so maybe you don’t consider these to be the best sea- or poolside reading material. It’s just sort of a hodgepodge of books that I either have read by the pool or at the beach, think would be good to read there, or intend to read there on my vacation this year. On y va!

1. Attachments, Rainbow Rowell: I read this by the pool last year and thus I will always consider this a summer book. A relatively quick read with an engrossing, sometimes heartbreaking plot and characters you want to hug and befriend. Now that I’ve read more of her work, I know this is typical Rainbow Rowell. She’s just fantastic with characterization.

2. Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell: Another great one, for all the aforementioned reasons.

3. Tender is the Night,  F. Scott Fitzgerald: I know a lot of people are jumping on the Gatsby train this year because of the movie, and you should do yourself a favor and check out more of Fitzgerald’s work. He is one of my favorite authors and Tender is the Night is one of my favorite of his books. Taking place on the French Riviera in the 1920s, it tells the story of the disintegration of It Couple Dick and Nicole Diver’s marriage, as well as the disillusionment of starlet Rosemary Hoyt.

4. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, Jenny Lawson: This book is quite honestly one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever read. Only read it it public if you aren’t ashamed of unbridled laughter.

5. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen: I read this for the first time on the beach so again, this is a summer read to me. Froth, fun, romance–why not?

6. The Lost Girl, Sangu Mandanna: I would read this in a box. I would read this with a fox. I would read this here or there. I would read this anywhere (including the beach).

7. Good for You, Tammara Webber: This is the third book in Webber’s Between the Lines series, so you have to read Between the Lines and Where You Are to get to this one… but it is definitely the strongest of the three out so far, and the final installment, Here Without You, will be released in time for my beach trip in August. I sense a series reread and some pretending my eyes are just watering because I got sand in them.

8. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling: Another hilarious memoir. Mindy and I would most likely be BFFs IRL.

9. Going Too Far, Jennifer Echols: My main gripe with Jennifer Echols’ books is that the resolutions seem to come about so abruptly. This one, however, is a fun, quick read and full of zany characters and witty repartee.

10. The Awakening, Kate Chopin: If you read it you will understand why I consider it “beachy.”

When We Wake — Karen Healey

4/5 stars
Goodreads summary: Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027—she’s happiest when playing the guitar, she’s falling in love for the first time, and she’s joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice.

But on what should have been the best day of Tegan’s life, she dies—and wakes up a hundred years later, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened.

The future isn’t all she had hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better world?

Award-winning author Karen Healey has created a haunting, cautionary tale of an inspiring protagonist living in a not-so-distant future that could easily be our own.

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The Testing — Joelle Charbonneau

2/5 stars
Goodreads summary: Who will be chosen to lead? The best…the brightest…the deadliest? There will be a testing. In the wake of the Seven Stages War, the government of the Unified Commonwealth devised The Testing to assess the instinct, intellect and sheer nerve among a select group of the population’s young people. Candidates who pass, attend the University to become leaders of the Commonwealth; civilization’s hope to transform a post-war wasteland into a peaceful and technologically advanced society. But progress comes at a price. Mechanically-inclined Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a candidate but on the eve of her departure, her father confides partial memories of his grisly experience as a candidate, still haunted by nightmares and living in fear of what he can’t remember. It’s not enough to pass the test, Cia will have to survive it “and “her deadly fellow candidates. To stay alive Cia will have to learn who she can trust and, if necessary, who she must kill.

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