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
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into The Program. A book about suicide as an epidemic? But I’m glad I took a chance with it.
Sloane lives in a world where teenage suicide kills one in three teenagers. Nobody knows the exact reasons but they have several ideas. Society views suicide as a behavioral contagion for teens. Sloane’s school district came up with The Program as an answer. They monitor teens for signs of depression and if they discover anything, they remove them from school and their homes. People outside of The Program don’t really know what happens inside, but when teens return from it, they don’t remember much from their lives before. They go to a different school and seem fundamentally different.
Everyone knows someone that’s committed suicide. Everyone is expected to be perfectly emotionless despite the fact that so many friends and family members die. They are always watched and questioned. There are handlers around to cart people off to The Program at any signs of depression.
The story is in three parts: before, during and after The Program. The first part paints a picture of Sloane’s world. The Program casts a shadow on Sloane’s life. It affects her every choice and is the focus of her relationships. Her boyfriend James helps her cope, but they are stressed from coping. It’s obvious that there’s pressure everywhere: pressure to survive and pressure to not get caught feeling. Sloane knows that everything isn’t right, but she also knows she doesn’t want to go through The Program. She and James have plans and promises, but they don’t stop the worst from happening.
In the second section of the book, it’s obvious The Program is suspect. They don’t care about helping teens battling depression, they’re looking for a quick fix. The fix seems really dangerous, but they’re not thinking about lasting effects. They haven’t done much research, they’re just slapping it together. Some parents want this and agree to this even though it isn’t tried or tested. They just want their children alive and don’t care how it alters them. It also seems like only sleazy people work for The Program, which makes sense. Normal people wouldn’t want to be a part of anything so dirty. It’s intense and scary to see Sloane’s memories taken from her and know there’s nothing she can do about it.
After The Program, Sloane is returned to her home without integral parts of her memory. There’s a flimsy story in place of what actually happened. It’s clear that nobody is sure about the “cure” and even with memories gone they don’t want her around certain people. But she still gravitates toward them. It seems like there’s still a connection there, even if they can’t remember anything. Nobody is sure if the memories are gone forever. The people in charge are obviously worried about something happening, though.
I enjoyed The Program and it made me feel things. I pulled for Sloane and really wanted her to be okay. I didn’t fall in love with James. He could be sweet but he also seemed pushy in a way that made me a little uncomfortable. I wish there was a way it could have wrapped up in one book, but I’m still interested in what happens to Sloane and how The Program falls.