Whatcha reading? The Program by Suzanne Young

I am tearing through this one as if someone might take it from me if I put it down. The premise shocks with it utter plausibility: teenage suicide has become epidemic, and those in charge have developed The Program to combat it, essentially erasing the negative, difficult, conflicted parts of teens' brains so that they can "reenter" society cleansed. They can't remember huge chunks of their lives, but they live. If you think for a moment that this sounds absurd, I read an article about this very topic recently in Wired, and the possibility, the drug, already exists.

The story centers around two teens, Sloane and James, who have suffered huge personal loss already in the form of her brother Brady's suicide, since he was James's best friend as well. These two swear to love and support one another and keep depression at bay, but each slips a little daily. When yet another friend succumbs, you know their time is near. You know that The Program will come for each of them any day now, and of course it does, him first, and then her, but only after she has had to absorb that he doesn't remember her when he becomes a "reenterer." We see nothing of James's time in The Program, but Sloane's arrival on the ward, and the gang of misfits she finds there, echoes It's Kind of a Funny Story, which truly was quite funny but ultimately bleak and sad in its veracity. Of course Michael, who goes by his last name of Realm and is Sloane's immediate new best friend, is too good to be true, but as Sloane's memories of James drop away one by one, she readily falls for Realm's mind games.

I haven't really engaged with Sloane, she doesn't affect me despite her losses, but ooo, James radiates warmth and care and smolder. I desperately want him to survive intact, not as a zombie without memories. His humanity vibrates through his every interaction, and so if he loves Sloane, and he does, then I guess I have to love Sloane. The "us against the world" vibe reminds me of the brilliant Never Let Me Go, though I can't believe the ultimate horror will be that absolute. The only way to find out is onward.

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