April 18, 2013

Extreme measures in a suicide epidemic

By Kelly Traver
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In the near-future world of Suzanne Young's new novel, teen suicide has reached epic proportions, with one in three teenagers killing themselves before their 18th birthdays. Sloane knows this statistic as well as anyone: Her older brother Brady killed himself, and Sloane’s parents are desperate to keep their only daughter from following in his footsteps. And they’re not alone. A massive undertaking known only as “The Program” aims to save depressed kids from themselves—but at what cost? Teens who spend six weeks at The Program return to their old lives spacey and clueless, unable to remember anything or anyone who might have once triggered their depression.

Despite grieving Brady’s death, Sloane feels a measure of protection; she’s madly in love with her long-term boyfriend James, Brady’s best friend and the only person who can help her through the depths of her sadness. But when one of their friends commits suicide, both James and Sloane might be unable to escape their own time in The Program—but what will that mean for their future together?

Suzanne Young’s novel is divided into three parts, detailing Sloane's time before, during and after The Program, each of which challenges and changes readers’ expectations, simultaneously building suspense and sympathy. Readers will certainly identify parallels between Sloane’s scarily dystopian society and their own, and they’ll consider issues as wide-ranging as the nature of depression, the necessity of memory and the concept of true love.

Sloane is a flawed but thoroughly believable and sympathetic character, and readers will cheer for her through every act of resistance and moment of weakness. There are a lot of unanswered questions at the end of The Program, but that's okay—this is just the first book in a projected series that’s bound to further explore Sloane’s character and uncover the true breadth of The Program.

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The Program

The Program

By Kelly Traver
ISBN 9781439109984

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