I promised myself that while I was taking a hiatus from accepting new ARC’s I was going to work on my huge YA TBR, and I’m so glad I have because I have been reading some amazing books.
The program is a YA Dystopian book and it’s the first in a series, though I do feel this could be read as a standalone, I am happy that I have the rest of the books to follow up with. Sloan lives in a world where you shouldn’t show any emotion because something is happening to teenagers that make them commit suicide. If you show emotion, you will be dragged into The Program, wiped of all your memories, and returned back, happy, adjusted, and free from the dangers that are plaguing teenagers.
Her world is relatively small. She lost her brother to this disease so it’s just her, her boyfriend James, who was her brother’s best friend, and her best friend Miller. They are a close-knit trio and James is their rock. Sloane heavily relies on James to help keep her steady, he’s her shoulder to cry on, the encouragement she needs when things get to be too hard.
But Miller’s girlfriend has gone through The Program, and as expected, she doesn’t remember him. Her handler, as everyone released gets a handler, is keeping her close. Miller’s obsession with getting her to remember him, or at least striking up a friendship to work towards a relationship is ultimately his downfall, and things get even harder for Sloane. When her world starts to implode, she finds herself in The Program, courtesy of her mother. It was hard when their mother lost her son and so she’s kept the pamphlet for The Program at the ready by the phone, waiting for just this moment.
You can’t fight it, even when you think you have the upper hand, you don’t, and that’s exactly what happens to Sloan. Though we watch her memories of James and their life together slip away one by one, she is making a few friends inside The Program. While the characters aren’t overly developed, they are just enough to keep the story going. Her closest friend inside, the one with the most interest in her, is Realm. He seems to have a lot of sway with the nurses and the handlers, he’s allowed to sidestep the rules, which was throwing out huge alerts to me, but Sloane just wasn’t picking up on it.
Part of going through the program is being heavily medicated. You’re giving medication to “relax you” aka, a truth serum of sorts, that gets you to talk about what you hold dear. Those are the memories that are going to be wiped. While I think Dr. Warren is genuinely interested in helping the teens out, she goes about it the wrong way. There’s an extra element of secrecy that I don’t feel is necessary. I think the amount of medication is too much, but there’s more in the series, so maybe that will be explained further on down the line. The creepy handler Roger is a bit overkill to me. He’s there, he’s overbearing, he gets inappropriate with Sloan, and then he’s gone. It’s an added bit of storyline but I don’t feel like it really moves the storyline forward, other than it gives Realm a chance to show off how much sway he has in the facility.
I think if I take out the small things that I didn’t love, and look at the big picture, overall this is a great read and I really enjoyed it. There wasn’t much history about The Program and it was kept vague, which I feel might have been intentional. I like the aspect that it’s proven to work, but we aren’t exactly sure why. There are extra memories that are taken out, to “help teens adjust”, which seems like overkill to me. Even things like how she lost her brother was wiped out. It was a bit of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for me. I can’t wait to start the rest of the series.
I’ve read quite a few reviews as I was curious as to what other readers thought, and I take issue with a few of them. The blurb lets you know what you’re getting in to, so I don’t think that there need to be any more trigger warnings. If it’s not for you, then don’t read it. It’s Dystopian, so you have to take what happens with a grain of salt. It’s not meant to be exactly true to life, that’s what makes it Dystopian. While there is a heavy romance undertone in Sloane and James, The Program doesn’t romanticize suicide. Their relationship is a bit co-dependent, I would agree with that, but they’re teenagers, and teens don’t have the healthiest of relationships. I think because we are watching Sloane grow as a person, that dynamic might change, or at least I hope it does. Overall a really good read.