Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Program by Suzanne Young

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.

Rating: 1/5 Stars


Today at work there was no internet.

This week I’m working at a medical clinic as a secretary to cover for a vacation. Sadly, yesterday morning some workmen accidentally cut down the internet cable (somehow not killing themselves in the process, thank God) and that brought us two major problems.

1.We can't authorize the medical orders we receive because they are all done online, which means we’ll have to do them all at once as soon as internet is up again.
2.It’s winter holidays for us, which means that pretty much everybody but us is out of town, so there aren’t many patients to attend. Without work and without internet, the eight hours are a torture.

Now, why should you care about this? You shouldn’t, it’s boring as f*ck but it explains why I read this entire book today. Because I had nothing better to do (ok that’s not totally true I still had the Chrome dinosaur game, but playing it for eight hours would be its own kind of torture).

I picked up The Program because I was curious about suicide being epidemic; Why were there so many teens committing suicide? What was causing it? Was it only in the US or the rest of the world?

Spoiler alert, none of that was clarified or even talked about in this book. Instead all we got was a shitty representation of mental illness, one dimensional characters and a useless love triangle that was there only for the sake of drama (had I cared for it, that’s is).

Now, with most of my reviews I try to find a positive aspect in every book. I mean, even though I didn’t like it doesn’t mean that it’s horrible, is it? Well no such thing happens here. The best thing I can say about it is that the writing is simple and makes it easy to read. THAT’S IT

I know that it’s always a hit or miss with books representing mental illness, and now that I can see the reviews for it I agree that a dystopian setting was not the best choice to portray this story. But no matter what choice of setting or genre, the representation of mentally ill people on The Program was still one of the worst I’ve had the displeasure of reading in a while.

For some unknown reason, teenagers are committing more and more suicide (again, is it just in the US or what about the rest of the world?). It’s gotten to the point where teenage suicide is considered an epidemic. As a result, a new experimental program has been created to fix this called… the Program (what is it with dystopias and their names for stuff? Would it kill them to make it more original??) But the… Program is not perfect, it works by brainwashing teens and eliminating their memories so they won’t be suicidal anymore (don’t ask me how that makes sense because it doesn’t).

Sloane has lost her brother because of the pandemic, and then her best friend because of the program. Now all she has left is her boyfriend James and best friend Miller but she’s afraid that the Program will take that too, and afraid that they could take her as well.

Every time I read a book about mental illness I try to keep an open mind because I know that not everybody experiences it the same, so I won’t go around saying “Oh that’s not how I see it so it can’t be true!”
Sadly enough, this is not a case of “it’s me not you” this is a case of an author who tried to use mental illness as a plot device and didn’t even do any kind of freaking research on it.

When I first started reading, I knew that there was something wrong. The Program forbids students from doing sports (because the competition would put too much stress on them) forbids them from expressing their feelings (you cry and you’re sent to being brainwashed). Basically the program did EVERYTHING you should NOT do to help people with depression and/or suicidal tendencies.

But first I was optimistic and thought “Huh, maybe this program represents people’s misconceptions about mental illness and how they affect people?” I mean, it made sense. We know that there are many clichés and beliefs about this, so when people try to help they can end up doing more bad than good.

The further I got into the story the more I realized that that was not the case here, and that in fact the whole book was one huge misconception about depression and suicide told as “fact”.

Look, I know that when you write (and particularly fantasy or dystopian) you can take a few liberties. After all, books would be boring if authors did everything by the book and didn’t create anything new, right? But you have to draw the line, and The Program takes a very serious topic such as mental illness and trivializes it to the point where it almost looks like it’s making fun of it. I’m pretty sure (at least I hope so) that this was not the author’s intention, but you can’t argue with the results here.

Nothing is taken seriously, and nothing is explored in depth. Depression here is… crying? From time to time apparently? And suicide is something that happens all of the sudden and for no reason at all. One minute the person is totally fine, the next they have mood swings, then they start drawing black holes like in The Ring, and then they kill themselves. There was no explanation for it, these people were apparently attacked by the disease and decided to die. That was it.

It didn’t help that the story was narrated by Sloane, and she wasn’t suicidal nor depressive.
BUT, apparently she was because she wanted to cry when she remembered her brother who had killed himself, or when she was afraid of being taken by the Program and being brainwashed into someone new. I mean, the girl laughed, lived, enjoyed and not sporadically. She only felt sad from time to time when she remembered the shitty situation she was in, but because she couldn’t be 100% happy 100% of the time, she was clearly disturbed.

This happened all the time. Crying was the same as being suicidal, cutting yourself was suicidal, drawing black holes was suicidal; basically the book just took some stuff here and there and just smashed them together and said “These are suicidal thoughts! This is depression!” without having actually bothered to do any research on it.
There was no in-depth behind depression or behind the suicides, they just happened to further the plot along. It was sick.

The characters weren’t any better, they had nothing going on. They weren’t interesting, compelling or anything other than cookie-cutter.

I do not recommend this book, I’m too pissed at it. 

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