The Program was my introduction to author Suzanne Young. I’ve yet to read her A Need So Beautiful series, which I hear from many is great. The buzz surrounding The Program seemed overwhelmingly positive. As it should be, since The Program tackles what feels like a highly original concept: a teen suicide epidemic taking over the world. I appreciate The Program’s ambition, and for the most part, it does deliver. However, for much of its middle, the pacing drags and the plot becomes terribly predictable.
The Program takes place in a world where an epidemic of teen suicides is causing panic. The cure seems to be The Program, a six week rehab of sorts that wipes a person’s memory clean of any history that causes emotional distress. The story follows Sloane, a teenage girl absolutely scared about getting turned into The Program. Just like many other teens, she doesn’t want to erase her memories, even if they make her sad sometimes. Her brother was a victim of the suicide epidemic, which causes her parents to be extra paranoid about her. But Sloane finds solace and happiness in James, her boyfriend. The two are madly in love with each other. When an incident causes James to go into a deep depression, it’s inevitable that he’ll get turned into The Program, which means that it will only be a matter of time until Sloane goes too. If they forget everything, can Sloane and James find each other again?
Sloane and James’ relationship is the driving force behind the story and the best thing about it. Their romance is beautiful and heartfelt. Love practically oozes as Young writes Sloan’s feelings for James. It’s important to note that it feels appropriately cheesy in some places, but their relationship does not feel contrived at all. So seeing their relationship play out with the backdrop of The Program was fascinating, satisfying and heartbreaking at times. I commend Young on giving us this wondrous romance.
However, when it came to the plot revolving around the mystery of The Program, I started to lose interest because it was SO obvious what was happening or why they were doing what they’re doing. Once Sloane enters The Program, she gets heavily drugged on a daily basis, which understandably messes with some of her reasoning. I love the moments when she’s resilient and then seeing her break down is wrenching. Those emotional moments hit the right tone, but I wished that we transferred to another character’s point of view at this point. Sloane discovers truths about people and The Program usually an hour or two after I figured it out. So all that time waiting for that expected twist or shock to hit Sloane, it’s kind of boring getting there, especially when you have an audiobook and you can’t exactly control the pace of which you’re experiencing the story.
It also didn’t help that the narrator’s voice sounded a bit robotic at times. Read by Joy Osmanski, she does a decent job of bringing the character’s voices to life, but I think Young’s words brought out more emotion than the narrator’s voice. In that case, I imagine that The Program is much better read than listened to, but I did like the little interview with Suzanne Young at the end of the audiobook. She shed some good insight on the plot and where it will go from there.
Once Sloane leaves the Program, the book improves immensely and sets up the plot to lead us into what could be a much better sequel with some unpredictability and interesting answers as to why any of this is happening. The Program was a good start to the story but it looks like all the promise that the premise holds will be delivered in the second and last book of this series.
The Program by Suzanne Young is now available wherever books are sold.
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio (April 30, 2013)
Length: Approx. 11 hours
Series: The Program – Book 1 of 2
Source: Unabridged Audio Download (Provided by publisher)
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Science Fiction
Completed: May 2013