The Program; not incendiary, but a pleasing satisfactory spark

the programMy rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

I inwardly groaned at the start of The Program; I’ve been reading a lot of YA lately with preposterous plots (it’s the reason I love YA) and I wondered if I’d reached a natural break. Then The Program reeled me in and I was hooked enough to want to finish. A slow, rather than rapid, start.

It’s about how an epidemic is leading teenagers to commit suicide. They are put into The Program, which rids them of their bad memories and lets them back out into the world wiped clean (very Stepford Wives). At the centre though, is the love story between James and Sloane; ripped apart by The Program, the question is whether or not they will find each other again after their memories of loving each other are removed. (spoiler alert; they are back at the same school so it’s kinda likely).

It was well written in the sense that I got a good 3D view of both of the lead protagonists (which isn’t always the case in YA) and the plot is bonkers but fast. (Ignore the billion questions about resources here; if there really was a mass epidemic for suicide, not sure they would be able to afford to do anything but kill ’em all off or at least put ’em inside an extremely locked facility. The solution appears right-wing but in actual fact is actual a very left-wing solution – we’ll put the kids in therapy, talk to them, reintegrate them into society slowly in a very resource-intensive way).

The major theme is really about whether true love is “true” and lasting, kind of like Sliding Doors (which asks interesting questions about fate and if we are destined to be with one person no matter what happens). I realised – like every YA at the moment – there are two more books, although thankfully, unlike The Selection, the story is at least satisfactorily concluded before moving onto the sequels. This book has a huge following on Goodreads who really love it, but for me, it wasn’t incendiary. More of a pleasing, satisfactory spark.


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