In this “gripping tale for lovers of dystopian romance” ( Kirkus Reviews ), true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.
Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories. Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.
My take: 2.5 looks, rounding up to 3
Maybe it's because it has been a long time since I experienced teenage angst, as well as a teenage love affair, but I found this book to be very sophomoric. Yes, it is a Young Adult genre novel, but so is The Giver by Lois Lowry, and it is beautifully written.
Romantic? Not really, unless you are 14 years old.
Suspenseful? Not really, unless this is the first book you've ever read and have no idea what is going to happen.
It is written to read at a fast clip, but I still found it to be pandering and redundant.
There were some very real issues that I think the book could have tackled: Who is Realm, really? (I hope to know more in the sequel). Is there actually a suicide epidemic or is this merely common teenage angst? We all know that teens feel deeper and sharper, in part because of raging hormones, and have not yet developed the tools necessary to wade through these years. However, there did seem to be a mental issue that was somewhat contagious. And the fact that it has started to spread to adults by the end of the book was telling. I hope this is explored in the second (and final, from what I have read) in the series. I also hope Sloane's mother is explored more. She seemed to be complex and conflicted, and I would like to see how she comes to terms with what has happened in her life.
All in all, because the story held my attention, and I am interested in the ending of the saga, I am promoting this one to 2.5 looks. However, Young had a perfect opportunity to explore a very real and serious issue and decided to make it a Harlequin Romance Junior instead.
Can't recommend this one.