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The Program

The Program - Suzanne Young The Program is one of those stories that I just couldn't put down. It is paced well and the story moves fairly quickly. I’m not sure if I can review this without ruining anything about it so I am going to spoiler tag this and you can decide if you want to read it or not. Suicide is now an international epidemic and teenagers are now constantly monitored to prevent infection. Any sort of reaction or outburst that could be tied to suicide can land someone in The Program. The Program essentially wipes out a person’s memories and they come back as a new person. Depending on who you are in this equation, this could be good or bad. From the very first page we are introduced to the life these teens lead. It grabbed my attention and honestly didn't let go until I finished the last page. The book is broken into sections – you get the before The Program (Uncomfortably Numb), during The Program (logically enough – The Program), and after Sloane’s release from The Program (Wish You Weren't Here). The story revolves around Sloane and James with some other pivotal secondary characters. Through the introduction it is revealed that Sloane’s brother Brady (also James’ best friend) committed suicide while James and Sloane were there in front of him. Because of this and the fact that their friend Lacey was taken into The Program 6 weeks prior, they are on edge. They know they can’t grieve openly so they find a way to cope together. In the beginning of the book their relationship did seem a bit co-dependent. They clearly love each other but at times I was wondering if all of this tragedy hadn't happened around them would they really still be together? They seemed to lean on each other a lot just to get through the day and they both seem to be hanging on to “normal” by a thread. When something happens with another one of their close friends, things seem to take a turn for the worse. James seems to give up (despite his promises to stay strong for Sloane) and when he is taken into The Program Sloane realizes he won’t remember her. Even though she realizes it early in his treatment, it doesn't really click until she sees him after he is out and he truly doesn't know who she is and what she meant to him. With that reality facing her, Sloane starts displaying some “questionable” behavior and her mom does something that I consider unforgivable. She calls the handlers to come take her into The Program. Now, I get it…she was trying to protect her child from harming herself and didn't want to lose another one to suicide but the way she did it and her response to Sloane’s fears about The Program just made me angry. While in The Program herself, Sloane meets a number of people. The main person who she seems to latch onto (not by accident) is Realm. While she is definitely making progress with The Program, whether she wants to or not, he is the person she leans on to protect her as well as get her through the challenges. Now here is where people may disagree with me – I liked Realm. He definitely had an agenda and purpose but it was clear that as time went by, he started to realize he had feelings for Sloane. The unforgivable piece that will definitely come back to bite him is the fact that he made her forget who he is and what he did. He is absolutely looking out for himself and making sure she doesn't ruin things for him but if/when she realizes what he did she most likely won’t forgive him….ever. During the time Sloane is in treatment, we learn more about what happens there and how it all works. We get background on how it actually works (medication and discussion) which I thought was interesting. There is a pivotal part early on in this section where Sloane interacts with Roger, one of the handlers. He essentially offers her a pill that will help her keep a memory. Desperate for anything, she agrees to the trade – I did find this to be one of those hard to read sections as he is blackmailing her for something she shouldn't have to fight for. Regardless, she takes the pill and when she talks to Realm about it, he is clearly upset – not just about the trade but also the fact that it could have killed her and/or will have an effect on her once she is home.Once Sloane is out, she is taken back to her parent’s home. She doesn't remember anything but is oddly enough drawn to the same people that were in her life before the program. She quickly becomes friends (again) with Lacey and starts to interact with James. James is at first very closed off and can’t understand why he even cares about what happens to Sloane but he does. Once Sloane’s parents hear she is hanging out with James again, things start to unravel. Sloane can’t understand what the problem is and once again, her mom is creating a bad situation. I loved how in the beginning the thought was that if they were meant to be, they would find their way back to each other and when they do, certain people want to stop it. Surprisingly when I look at the characters I am more interested in James, Realm and Lacey than I am Sloane. I think it may be because we get so much of her throughout the story and I really want to know more about them. They have so many different layers and secrets that I am very interested in getting into their stories more…hopefully that comes in the next book.I am definitely looking forward to the next book in this series. It was a good place to create a break in the story but I honestly wanted a little bit more of the Anna/Realm piece as there were a number of unanswered questions for me based on the ending. **Thank you to Simon Pulse for the ARC!!