Monday, July 29, 2013

The True Nature of the Program

One of the worst things imaginable is for a parent to lose their child. The idea of teen suicide becoming an uncontrollable epidemic has to be something we can't even imagine. In Suzanne Young's The Program, we see a world that has done everything to find a way to stop their teens from killing themselves. Unfortunately, the Program might not be as successful as they had hoped. 

Sloane survived her brother Brady's suicide, but only because she had James to help her survive the tragedy. With suicide rates amongst teens out of control, the government has started a few pilot operations of the Program. The Program is meant to monitor teens for any sign of depression or an inclination of wanting to hurt themselves; if spotted, students are then pulled from their schools, entered in the Program, and once they are cured, they are returned to a self-contained school for returners, sans all memories that might have contaminated them in the first place. For Sloane, James and Miller, the Program is the worst kind of abuse, and they would do anything to avoid it... until Miller can't go on living after his girlfriend returns from the Program and doesn't even recognize him. 

James barely survived the loss of Brady, but Miller's choice has sent him over the edge. Unable to get a grip, he is flagged as a potential for the Program. Sloane tries to survive without James as her rock, but she isn't doing so well. When he returns and clearly doesn't remember her, it is too much for Sloane to handle. Her parents become worried about her state of mind, and they choose to do the only thing they think will save their only surviving child: they contact the Program. What they don't know is that the Program has its own demons. Could the very program that is meant to save the world's children be the thing that is driving them to take their own lives?

I wavered back and forth with this book throughout the entire thing. First I was really intrigued, then I was really turned off, and finally I ended up wanting to know where the second book was going to go (but admitting to myself it might have been better without a second book). I knew a book about teenage suicide wasn't going to be sunshine and daisies, but there were parts of this book that were pretty disturbing. In particular, when Sloane was enrolled in the Program. I fully accept that being disturbed as a reader was what Young was going for, but it was almost too much at times. So much that it actually turned me off from the book at one point. I won't give you any spoilers, but I am sure you can figure out what I am talking about when you read it yourself.

For a number of reasons, I find myself struggling to picture the kind of reader I would give this book to. I know it would be a small population, but I still can't think of anyone off the top of my head, in terms of students, who could handle the strange and sometimes highly disturbing subject matter. Don't get me wrong, Young did a good job of handling such delicate subject matter with careful hands, but there were times where I think she almost went too far- farther than she needed to in order to accomplish her goal. I will certainly be reading the second book, but I am not sure I really even liked this book. It absolutely got me thinking and that is the sign of a great book, but then again, you don't necessarily have to LIKE a book to appreciate how much it made you think!

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