by Suzanne Young
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James is the best at hiding the pain, disguising the feelings. He knows what it takes to stay out of The Program. He’ll keep us safe.
Last night I had a million things in my head that I just HAD to say in this review and I totally knew how I was going to lay it all out for people to read…and now, sitting here with a keyboard right in front of me, I’m even more speechless than I was when I finished this two nights ago. This story was special to me, therefore I want to say things correctly and just as I felt them as I read, but that’s nearly impossible. I rarely remember everything I feel during the book when writing a review, but I certainly try. And here, now, I have so much to say all at once that I can’t figure out how to say it. Powerful. Heartbreaking. Soul-crushing. Mind-altering. Beautiful. Controversial. So many things wrapped up into one neat package. And how do you talk about a book that centers on the idea that suicide is an epidemic? I think that’s the other thing. How can I possibly review how much I loved this book and couldn’t put it down? The romance had me choking on butterflies from the minute shit got real, but so much more was going on. How can I possibly do justice to this book that hasn’t left my mind since I started reading it?
It’s the push I need to get through the rest of the period, the fact that he’s waiting for me. The fact that he’s always waiting for me.
I’ll admit one thing: When I started this book on Saturday, I began to worry. It was so….sad. The first 15% of this had me on my toes, waiting for the ball to drop. How is this whole book going to survive? How will it not go in circles and how will it not depress me? The life these kids lead was devastating and hard to fathom, but the way they tried to be above the negativity of the world they lived in was so beautiful. There was beauty in their resistance. Like, nothing that could happen to this group of friends could ever separate them…but then the unthinkable happens. I was shocked. I was speechless. I was scared. What could POSSIBLY happen from here on out?? But, without a doubt, this is the moment the story extended it’s claws and ripped into me, paralyzing me into an unimaginable hold that I couldn’t possibly escape from. The story simply….woke up. It’s like everything that was ‘definitely very good but we’ll see what happens’ became ‘definitely very awesome and I
cannot will not put this down.’
“We have to fake it to make it,” he says, sounding bitter. “And I don’t make it without you, baby.”
So, let’s break it down into what this story is really about. Simply put, this story centers on a town in Oregon where suicide is considered an epidemic. Well, depression is what leads them to this epidemic….and I’m not quite sure how it all came about-I might have missed that-but, the point is, when a student acts even a little like they are depressed or their emotions are iffy, they are brought in by ‘Handlers’ and taken into The Program. DUN DUN DUN. The Program cleanses people. They wipe away any of the sadness or doubt or fear they had that was messing with their minds and, ultimately, leading them to commit suicide because of their depression (If they are under 18 they can be taken against their will or at their parents’ request-if they are over 18 it is THEIR choice to go or not go). But, when they come back after The Program? They don’t remember their friends. They don’t look the same. They will look through you as if you never even existed…even if it’s your 5 year boyfriend. In the blink of an eye every kiss, every touch, every heartbreaking moment is swept from their minds so they will never be sad or ‘infected’ again. Let me be very clear. They remember their parents. They remember little things that get them through the day. But they don’t remember what got them there in the first place and they don’t remember who broke their heart and they don’t remember who they promised to protect. All their memories…gone.
They reset our emotions so that we’re brand-new, never having been hurt or heartbroken. But who are we without our pasts?
How I understand it??? The Program is the cause. People are terrified to even look at someone or something cross-eyed lest they get carted away to have every memory they cherished eradicated if it didn’t have anything to do with their family. They just swipe every bad memory so the good ones (the good ones they want you to remember) are the only kind intact. And then when their friends try to make contact with them when they get back? It’s as if they are strangers. Some friends/boyfriends can handle it…others go mad and get carted away themselves…all because The Program took who they chose to love, their choices and free will, away. Oh, but hey, there’s a 100% survival rate. You know, because they’re walking, talking drones.
Despite everything, our school district has the highest survival rate in the country. So in some sick and twisted way…I guess The Program works. Even if the result is a life half lived.
Sloane and James were absolutely ADORABLE. At first I didn’t know how I was going to feel about James. He seemed cocky and a tad like he wasn’t what I look for in my book guys (I seem to be picky these days…). But then, as I mentioned earlier, shit hit the fan, and he was the rock. He was the protector. He was the hope they all chose to cling to…but then things got worse. I loved Sloane for this reason. She was strong, stubborn, resilient, and witty. She tried her best. She did. And so did James, really. But when their world is crumbling around them and they only have each other, the darkness finds them. I can’t say what happens, but I can imply that it will rip your heart out and squeeze it until it turns to dust. Ah yes, just like this^^^^ James is the rebellious leader of the group and Sloane is the love of his life. Now, watch events unfold when the reason they are still breathing is threatened to be taken from them. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
“James Murphy,” I say, watching the sun fade below the horizon. “I love you madly.” “I know you do,” he answers seriously. “And that’s why I won’t let anything happen to you. It’s me and you, Sloane. Just us. Forever just us.”
This story was epic. Profound. Not everyone will resonate or agree with it. As I said before, it’s controversial and will likely trigger emotions from certain people they’d rather leave in the dark, and that’s okay. I’m more than aware this book is not for everyone. But for those who are interested? This book is about protecting those you love. It’s about finding your way back to one another even when all is lost. It’s hope lost and found, broken and repaired. And it’s about desperation and what lengths you’d go to to save that one special someone. It is raw. It is crazy. It is madness and paranoia. I loved it. I loved every second of it.
“Baby,” he continued, “I’m going to live the rest of my life with you, or die trying.”
So…to those who are skeptical just like I was…I don’t know. How do you recommend a book with such dark subject matter like this? My heart says ‘GUSH TO EVERYONE!’ but my head says, ‘proceed with caution.’ So, I’ll just say this: The love story was absolutely breathtaking and butterfly inducing-I was choking on butterflies until I began to think I was going mad. The angst was sky high. The subject matter was dark and not everyone survives. The story? The story was top-notch and flawlessly written. So, it all depends what you’re looking for in a book. I didn’t know what I wanted to read on Saturday. Turns out I found a gold mine of awesomeness.