I initially gave this book a 4-star rating after debating for a while. I would have gone with 4.5, but you know, Goodreads has no half stars (let’s get on that already!). Now that some time has passed and I think more about this book, I had to bump it up to 5 stars. I think I maybe just read it so fast that I didn’t really process it all. This book, in many ways, is a horror story. Not your typical creepy, slasher, or ghost story, but it brings a deeper fear—that of losing yourself if you show your real emotions.
Basically the idea is this. Sloane and James live in a world where teen suicide is an epidemic. Parents and society are so freaked out by this that they create “The Program,” which is meant to make them happy and keep them from killing themselves… by erasing their memories. What that led to is a world that now exists where no one is allowed to show despair, grief must end in days, and if you’re not happy all the time, you are in danger of being taken away. Nothing like a little pressure, eh? Teens often killed themselves just to avoid being taken into The Program, which seems like it sort of defeated the purpose.
Sloane and James are two teens in love, fighting to keep their friends alive as well as themselves. In the not-too-distant past, Sloane’s brother, who was also James’ best friend, committed suicide after becoming depressed to avoid being taken into The Program. One of their other friends was recently taken into The Program and they’ve had to witness how different she is and that she does not know them at all.
I loved the way Young wrote this book. It was terrifying in the most basic and psychological way. Imagine being forced to be happy for fear of losing yourself. I mean, who are we without our memories? There was so much tension and so many parts where the reader knew what was going on, but the characters didn’t, and that made it heartbreaking.
I could not stop reading this book. I was on Christmas break when I read it, so I finished it in less than two days. It haunts me still to think of this world. To think of the white rooms and the little pills that make you feel all happy and remember nothing of that which made you sad. It seems on the surface like that could be a good thing, right? You lose someone, so why not have your memory of them erased? Very Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But even in that movie we see that sometimes the memories, while painful, are worth keeping. And certainly, being afraid to cry for fear that your parents will turn you in is enough to make anyone go nuts. I will gladly devour the rest of this series to find out what happens to Sloane and James and their friends.
The Goodreads Description
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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