Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

The Program

The Program
by Suzanne Young
Series: Program #1
Published: April 30th 2013
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Source: Free on PulseIt

My Rating:

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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.

Quick Critique

Pros: The Program is a superbly written, gripping tale, full of raw emotion, strong world building, and exceptional character development. This is not your typical dystopian novel. I. NEED. MORE. NOW.

Cons: There were two things that made me go, “Hmmm?” but neither were significant enough to me that I wanted to give it less than five stars.

Overall: The Program is a MUST READ! Even if you don’t enjoy the dystopian genre, I think you’ll love this book. I rarely read a book twice. I don’t know why, it’s just not my thing. This book, though, I will definitely read again. In fact, I just finished reading it and could easily start it again right now.

My Thoughts

Sloane and James live in a world where suicide is an epidemic, where they have to fill out self-assessments daily in school, where they are constantly scrutinized by The Program. They can’t reveal any emotion that resembles sorrow or depression for fear of being flagged. People are dying all around them, or being taken into The Program, yet they must keep a smile on their faces, even in their own homes. Sloane and James are fortunate to have each other to lean on, to love, but how long can they keep up this pretense?

Smiles and small talk equal well-balanced and healthy. I wouldn’t dare show my parents anything else. Not now.

Sure, I can tell you this book is the best thing I’ve read in a long time, but I’ve heard that from others before, about other books, and it’s not always the case. I promise you, this time it’s true. My love for this book could potentially rival the love I have for my husband, my best friend of ten years. I was afraid I may not be able to read it in the remaining two days it was free on Pulseit, but I devoured this book as if it was my last meal. Kids? What kids? I don’t hear any kids. Hon, I know you just got home from work, but can you make dinner tonight? Oh, and fold the clothes from the dryer, too?

The Program is told from Sloane’s POV, and her story will stir things inside your guts you didn’t know you were capable of feeling. The moment I finished page one I knew that I was in this until the end. The author has a way of telling a story that makes you feel like you are deep in it, right from the start. The amount of detail put into each character is impressive. Surprisingly, James had the most drastic character arc, which caused my jaw to drop several times. The changes his character went through were mind blowing. I was filled with compassion for Sloane and James’s situation, was terrified at the thought of either of them being flagged for The Program. My insides crumbled whenever I thought something bad might happen. This book ripped my heart out, then put it back in twisted fragments.

I don’t know what I believe anymore, and really, I try not to think about it. But the psychologists say suicide is a behavioral contagion. It’s the old adage, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you, too?” Apparently the answer is yes.

There were two things about this book that caused me to go, “Hmmm,” while reading The Program. The first is in regards to the writing. There were so many “sideways looks” I thought I might get whiplash. If I was playing a drinking game based on the amount of times the author wrote He looked sideways at me, or I gave him a sideways look, I would have been drunk by chapter four, and passed out on the floor by chapter seven. Either it stopped, or the story was so good I didn’t notice it anymore after that. I normally hate repetition, but this story gripped me so tightly I didn’t even care about it. The second issue has to do with the “treatment” at The Program. Based on what I learned, it seems impossible that the people who are forced to go through this would lose so much. It’s hard to explain without revealing too much, but there it is. Again, I overlooked it because this book was SOOOOO good.

I recommend The Program to everyone, whether you enjoy dystopian novels or not. This is not the same recycled dystopian tale that we have grown accustomed to reading. The final few chapters left me with a craving I haven’t felt about a book before. I need more. I would trade a kidney for the next book if I could have it tonight.

About the Author


Originally from New York, Suzanne Young moved to Arizona to pursue her dream of not freezing to death. She currently resides in Tempe, where she teaches high school English. When not writing obsessively, Suzanne can be found searching her own tragic memories for inspiration. Suzanne is the author of several books for teens, including THE PROGRAM, A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL, and A WANT SO WICKED.

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Follower of Jesus, loving wife, homeschooling mom, blogger, author, gamer, and a lover of the culinary arts. Toni lives in Michigan with her husband and four children. If she's not writing or curled up with a book, you'll most likely find her playing with her kids, baking cupcakes, or killing zombies.
  • Ha, so many sideways looks I got whiplash,,,too funny. This does sound good though!

    • It was so good. I was so worried about not being able to finish it before it was taken of Pulseit, but I flew through it!

  • LOL, I never noticed the sideways looks! I couldn’t put this book down either. I kept seeing plot holes and it made no difference, I still loved it.

    • I know! It was so good that the things that normally would have gnawed at me didn’t matter at all.

  • Kelly

    I hate when you notice a repeated phrase! I read a book recently where the wind kept whipping her hair into her face; how often does that even happen!

    It’s nice to hear that it didn’t take away from your overall enjoyment though! I’ve been seeing a lot of positive reviews for this one; looks like I’ll have to give it a shot!

  • Gypsie

    I dont understand the ending… Help please?!?

    • Did you just read the book?

      • Gypsie

        Yes 🙂 I read the book this week…

        • OK, shoot me an email and we can discuss the book. I don’t want to give away any spoilers here. 🙂

          • Gypsie

            sounds good 🙂 is your email Toni @ My Book Addiction?

          • Nope, it’s pageturningjunkie at gmail dot com There’s a link to my email at the top in the “Who is Toni” section 🙂

  • Natalie

    I have this on my Kindle now, but haven’t read it yet. Sounds like I need to remedy that immediately. I’ve been wanting to dive in since seeing that cover. I’m happy you enjoyed it so much. Great review!
    -Natalie @Natflix&Books

  • lian

    i finished the book and i LOVED it especially the end when sloane meets with lucy and james again. Im doing it for a book talk and i cant figure out the theme. can you help me?

  • tyty