The Program is one of those books that I enjoyed while reading but the more I think about it now, the more problems I see with it. It kept my interest and I wanted to keep reading. I'll probably even check out the next book in the series, but I wasn't blown away.
Teen suicide is an epidemic in Sloane's world. So many teenagers were committing suicide, that The Program was created to solve the problem. In Sloane's world, depression is thought to be contagious so Handlers are always around to monitor everyone for signs of the disease. If depression is suspected, the teens are taken away - usually against their will - to The Program where their memories are taken from them. After the 6 week program, they return to the real world but most of them are shells of their former selves.
The premise is definitely an interesting one. What would happen if all of your most precious memories were taken from you because they were thought to be infected? Who would you be? Would you want to know the truth or would you be happy to have a fresh start? Sloane's story is a compelling one. Through the book we learn about her relationships with her family and friends and her boyfriend, James. After a tragedy, James and Sloane are both taken by the program. When all of your memories of your love are gone, what happens? Will you find each other again if it's meant to be? There are some great, thought-provoking questions here and I really wanted to see where the story would go.
The descriptions of the depression and Sloane's time in The Program were really raw and sometimes disturbing to read. They were very well done. I think the reader really gets a good picture of how Sloane's depression develops and how she deals with it.
The main thing that bothers me with this book is the idea that memories are the cause of depression. When their memories are erased, the patients basically have a clean slate to start over as happy, productive citizens. In real life, this is definitely not the case. There's a lot more to depression than memory. I realize that this is a work of fiction and not necessarily meant to mirror real life. I mention it because it requires a pretty big suspension of belief on the part of the reader if you're going to enjoy this book.
My other gripe is that we don't really learn any backstory. We don't know why there was such a spike in suicides, who created The Program, why parents would go along with it in the first place, etc. There are a whole lot of unanswered questions. They're not just unanswered, they aren't even broached at all. I can only hope that we learn more in book 2.
Overall, this was an entertaining book with an original premise. I would recommend to fans of dystopia looking for something other than end-of-the-world or teens killing each other.