Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 408, Hardcover
Goodreads Rating: 3.93 stars
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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.
Wow, I really LOVED this book! It was just so incredibly well-written and thought-provoking. Sloane lives in a world where teen suicide has become so common that the government has resorted to a radical treatment – The Program. From the very beginning, this book had me hooked. I loved the emotional turmoil that Sloane felt. She and her friends live in constant fear of being taken away to The Program. Any sign of weakness or sadness can get you sent there and when you come back, you are a shell of your former self, devoid of the memories that you previously cherished. But, in a world filled with death and loss, who wouldn’t feel a bit depressed? Really, I’m pretty sure I would be going crazy in these circumstances! This is the catch-22 that made the book so incredibly interesting to me.
I absolutely loved the first section of the book. I actually think it was favorite part. In this section, Sloane tries to avoid The Program and we really get to love her, her boyfriend James and her best friend Miller. I felt like the relationships were all very genuine and I was rooting for these characters – and terrified for them at the same time. I also loved that there were no true “bad guys” in the first section of the book. You could kind of see both sides of the issue as far as The Program went – I mean, if kids are killing themselves by the thousands, you’d want to do something about it, right? You could also relate to the parents who send their kids to The Program feeling like it was their only hope to keep their child alive. Even Sloane herself can see their point of view – she just doesn’t like the solution. I love books like this – books that really make you think about how society could get to a certain point and what you would do in a given situation.
During the second section of the book, Sloane is in The Program, where she slowly realizes what’s being taken from her and fights to keep it. To her surprise, she makes a friend and ally while she’s there – Realm, who would like Sloane to be more than just a friend. In the last section of the book, Sloane is released from the program and struggles to “stay cured” and to make sense of her life without key memories. Can she fight her way back to who she once was?
Now, I have read a few reviews that don’t like the way that mental illness is portrayed in this book and I can understand their viewpoint. There isn’t solid reasoning given to explain why erasing one’s memories actually cures the teens so that they no longer want to commit suicide. It makes sense if the desire to commit suicide simply comes from responding to depressing circumstances (which does seem to be the case for many of the characters), but not if it is an actual mental illness (which it also seems to be in some cases – like with Sloane’s best friend Lacey who seemed to have no specific triggers or depressing circumstances before her suicide attempt). So, I can understand the frustration, especially if someone has dealt with real-life mental illness. Still, I used a little bit of suspension of disbelief when it came to exactly how they were being cured (I just assumed the drugs they were being given did more than simply remove memories) and focused more on the psychological and character-driven aspects of the book – from those perspectives, it was excellent. One very minor issue that I did have with the book was the very end (just before the epilogue). I felt like the ending was suddenly rushed a bit in order to get us to the next book. It was all just a little too conveniently set up for Sloane.
Overall, I loved this book and am eagerly awaiting the next one in the series! 4.5/5 Stars.
***Disclosure: This book was provided by Pulseit (with no requirement for a review, but of course I had to post one!), no other compensation was given and my review was not affected in any way, all opinions are my own***