Friday, April 26, 2013

Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

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The Program
Suzanne Young
Series: Program #1
Genre: YA Dystopian
Publication date: April 30th 2013
by Simon Pulse

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.

-A copy was provided by Simon & Schuster Canada for review-

If I wasn’t so bored with dystopians lately, this one might have been more enjoyable for me. Although it has a little contemporary feel to it more than most, and the plot direction it takes is different from the expected and clichés “run and hide from the big bad government”, in the end I still felt that it was yet another dystopian novel that doesn’t particularly stand out from the rest.

A little reminiscent of Delirium, The Program involves teen suicide and how its become an epidemic, and the cure involves wiping them out into a clean slate. This means memory removal of anything that could cause negative feelings. Thus, if you’re a teenager and you show any sort of negative emotions like crying, you better make sure no one sees you! I liked the idea of this world and I personally found it much more believable than Delirium, in the sense that I can see how society agreed to this mind erasing program if it will save their children from suicide (I had difficulty believing that society could be convinced love was a disease–but that is a review for another time >.<). I found the system intimidating and quite the paradox–some rather die than go through the program if they're flagged, for others, having your best friend, or anyone you love, not remember who you are is heartbreaking in every sense turning you emotionally vulnerable. Although it delivers a fairly predictable story arc, The Program is ultimately a tragic love story and this part was done quite well.

While the plot itself was enjoyable, I did not find myself connecting to the characters as much as I would have liked. They were likeable characters, but Sloane didn’t strike me as an especially memorable MC. Same goes for the side characters, Sloane makes a few friends throughout the story, and none of them were well developed. They were used as nothing more than “extras”. There is even one character who was kind of a creep for the bigger part of the book that annoyed me senselessly. He seemed to always be sneaking around intimidating Sloane every chance he got, and I didn’t see the point of it. The book could have gone without him; he was gross, his storyline felt random and out of place, and when he had done his “task” to help the plot along (which could have been achieved without him), he was just gone and forgotten. He might be back in the sequel, but really I don’t see the point–it seems his only role is to add unnecessary ickiness.

In the end, The Program is a love story. The main reason I didn’t love this book is due to my distance from the romance itself. I have a hard time falling for a romance when one is already established beforehand. I love seeing connections strike and relationships bloom, when I get into a book with it pre-existing, I don’t get that fluttery young love feeling towards it as much. There were flashbacks that showed the strength of their love for each other which helped, though this helped me understand their relationship, it didn’t leave me swooning over it. Therefore, while I cared about the protagonist and what she was going through, and I deduced the implied sadness or tragic nature of it all, I felt like I was more of a curious observer than someone invested into the heart of it.

With so may previously failed dystopians this year, The Program is easily one of the better ones I’ve read lately. If I hadn’t read so many I might have given this one more slack; as it stands I liked it but I don’t see it sticking out from the masses in the cluster of dystopians in my memory.

3 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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27 Responses to “Review: The Program by Suzanne Young”

  1. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Okay, I’m happy I didn’t request this one, then. I had my reservations (with a main conflict seemingly about suicide…made me a little leery). Not a fan when the side characters are super-flat and the main doesn’t stand out. They need to bound off the page, you know?

  2. Megan K.

    I’ve been seeing quite a few mixed reviews for The Program, but I’m still pretty interested in it. Eh, the characters could’ve used some work, especially since the book sounds so emotional and character-driven. That’s a disappointment. Sorry that the romance didn’t work either! It sounds like it takes up a big part of the story, so it should’ve been more… personal, I guess. Everyone likes feeling all fluttery and swoony when it comes to romance. 😉

    I’m disappointed this didn’t stand out from the rest of the dystopians so far, but great review anyhow, Giselle!

  3. Amy

    It’s too bad that you didn’t like this one more. I am having some major dystopian burnout right now too. I have just read a few contemporaries, and I will be getting this on audio for review, so maybe I will like it better. The good thing with audiobooks is, if the narrator is good, I will enjoy a book better than I would have if I read it on my own. Great review hon. I will go into this with low expectations.

  4. Nick

    I just got this one a few days ago and after reading Jenni’s review, I was excited.
    I’m probably going to go into it with low expectations. I’ll probably enjoy it more than you did.
    I’d much rather have an unmemorable MC than an annoying one. Lovely review, Giselle.

  5. Esty Nestea

    I’ve heard some great things about this one so I’m surprised but intrigued at your comparison to Delirium- another book much raved about that I didn’t love. Still, I might give The Program a try anyway. You write really on-point reviews!
    I’ve been following you on Twitter for awhile, but just now followed you on GFC:)
    Esty @ Boarding with Books

  6. Lisa (Lost in Literature)

    I’m glad to read your review. I’ve seen quite a few rave reviews lately, but I’m kind of burnt out with dystopias myself. I’m thinking I may go the audio route with this one. Thanks for the review!

  7. Megan R

    I hate that feeling where you get a bit sick of a genre, so nothing seems as good as it would if it was your first dystopian. It’s too bad you didn’t get invested in the characters and the their relationship as much as you wanted, but I’d still like to give this one a try.

  8. Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf

    Hmmm…it does sound like a mixed bag. Proper development of the romance and an ability to really connect to at least one characetr are essential to me too. Glad it was enjoyable regardless though… I think this one may be a library pick for me down the road.

  9. Alexa Y.

    I’m curious about this one. I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly excited about it initially, but the more I think about it, the more the concept feels intriguing to me. Even though it didn’t exactly WOW you, I feel like there are certain elements that might make it a WOW read to me. Thanks for the review though!

  10. Molli Moran

    I’ve read a few different reviews that said they liked this one, but felt distant from the characters, so that’s a concern of mine. Suzanne is great at writing romances, though, and from what I’ve read, she does a good job with established ones, so I’m hoping I end up loving Sloane and James. But we’ll see!

    I’m glad you did like this one somewhat, Giselle. The premise is so interesting, but there are SO MANY dystopians out there that a lot of them aren’t feeling as original as they once might have.

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

  11. Candace

    I actually loved the established relationship more and really felt the romance between them. I kind of get what your saying about how you get that fluttery feeling with a relationship that is new, but I really liked how this one was done.
    As far as Roger goes he is in the sequel and him and Realm have some back story. I know this from chatting with Suzanne. So maybe there’s more to him.
    I didn’t read this like a dystopian at all. I mean, in my head it just wasn’t even in that category. I always switch up each genre I read and this one was sitting in the contemp romance section of my pile. I know that it’s a dystopic society but I guess that whole dystopian feel wasn’t there for me.
    I really loved this one so I’m sad you didn’t like it more but we can’t all love the same books!

    • Giselle

      It had contemporary elements like it’s set in a time that, aside from the program, mirrors our own, but an actual contemporary has no sci-fi/speculative elements (erasing a memory like they do is definitely sci-fi) so I couldn’t consider it contemp because of that. There was too much fantasy due to those magical mind erasing pills-which was the biggest aspect of the plot. Glad to know that Roger gets a back story in the sequel he seemed kind of random in this one. I didn’t get why he was needed he just creeped me out..

  12. Lauren Elizabeth

    I agree, I like seeing the spark happen in relationships, and when a couple is already together beforehand, It’s not as interesting to me. It’s a shame you couldn’t connect with the characters, because this does sound like a more plausible dystopian world than Delirium. While this wasn’t an amazing read for you, I’m glad you liked it enough for 3 stars. I’m still planning on giving it a try, but my expectations have been tempered somewhat. Wonderful review!

  13. Nikki R

    I only remember reading really positive reviews for this book so far, so it’s nice to see another take. I’m not a huge fan of pre-established relationships either, especially when the relationship is a main focus of the book. Also disappointing to hear that the minor characters aren’t fleshed out more… I think I’ll still check this one out, but nice to know those things going in. Great review. 🙂

  14. Vi Nguyen

    Oh no, I was thinking about this one too, but like you, i’m sorta dystopian’ed out right now so barely reading any, if at all. Glad to know this is one of the better ones, even if its only just blah, lol. But, for me, if the characters are that great, it wont work. Great review!

    Confessions of a Vi3tBabe
    Deity Island

  15. Eileen

    Nooo I’m sorry you didn’t connect to the characters BUT I’m really glad that you liked the world! As you’re describing it I’m seriously falling more and more in love with it because I love really compelling dystopian worlds because that’s like the main thing that I need to have >.< I actually enjoyed Delirium, but I can see your reluctance where the world is concerned because it must be unrealistic sometimes. OMG I totally agree with the pre-existing romances! It's like you're expected to believe the romance from page one, instead of seeing people slowly fall in love, and you getting to be there to swoon!

    Fantastic review, Giselle! I’m glad you liked this one, even if you didn’t totally love it 🙂

  16. Melanie

    I totally agree with you about the romance side of things. It’s always a joy to watch a romance start and develope when reading it, esecially if it’s a romance based book. I never knew this was a romance book, so thanks for the heads up, Giselle! Though I’m not a big fan of dystopian/romances, I’ve had… issues with them lately.

    Wonderful review, Giselle! Glad you still enjoyed this despite the characters being a little bum-ish >.<

  17. Shooting Stars Mag

    Nice review. I’ve been wanting to read this for awhile now, and I still do. I can certainly see suicide becoming an “epidemic”, but the romance overshadowing other things might become a bit annoying. Sounds like a library read!


  18. Jessirae

    Awesome review, Giselle! Sorry to hear that you didn’t love it, but enjoyed the elements that you did like. I’m kind of glad I didn’t go after this book. Lately, I’m just not loving the dystopian books these days *coughTHEWARDcough* I feel like: been there, done that. I have to agree with you about distant and already established relationships. I have a hard time being convinced that they are in love when they are already in love, you know? It’s not the same as if they met then got to know each other then fell in love. I’m sad that this book was that way. I do like the idea preventing suicide though! Again, great review! I always reading your reviews!!

  19. Leigh @ Little Book Star

    I think I’ll pass on this one because I don’t really like reading books that has romance taking over the whole story. I also don’t like reading books where the characters are already in a relationship. I want a romance where they start out as friends first, and gradually develops. I think it’s hard to pull off characters who are already in a relationship. Awesome review 🙂

    Little Book Star