The Program: Or if mental illness worked the way people thought it did a 100 years ago...

The Program  - Suzanne Young

I feel as though my dislike of this book is at least partially my fault - it was exactly what it said it was and that made me angry. Let me elaborate. The back of this book talks about an epidemic of depression and suicide among teens, and likens this condition to a virus. What I expected was something similar to Lauren Oliver's Delirium, wherein love is compared to a virus, but it is understood that the comparison is just that - a metaphor being used by a dystopian government. That is not the case with this book. Depression is treated as literally "catching" and something you can be "infected" with by being around other "sick" people. Umm...wtf? The book even goes so far as to build off that premise and "cure" people's depression by ridding them of their bad memories. As though only people who have traumas in their past can be depressed. Not only is all of this inaccurate, but it is also an irresponsible and stigmatizing thing to send out into the teen world for consumption.

 

I know. I know. This is fiction. The author can write about whatever weird ideas they want. That's totally true. But I am also allowed, as a reader, to find those ideas a huge turn-off and say as much.

 

So then why two stars rather than one? Why did I even finish this book? Well, quite honestly, the middle section of the book intrigued me. The story shifted gears once it really dug into the Program itself, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know if it was all a ruse, and what would happen next. Sadly, I was disappointed, but it was compelling enough I kept reading. It succeeded in holding my interest even when I was annoyed, and unimpressed with the writing. For that I give it an extra star.