I’ve never read an Elizabeth Eulberg book before, because I could never bring myself to read beyond the first few pages. For some reason, though, I reI’ve never read an Elizabeth Eulberg book before, because I could never bring myself to read beyond the first few pages. For some reason, though, I requested this one from the library ages ago. Then I completely forgot about it until I got an email saying my hold request had been fulfilled. Once I had my mitts on it, I inexplicably decided this would be the best book to read during my weekly bath (meaning I take a bath every week in addition to my regular showers, not that I only bathe once a week).
It was a quick read, and oddly engrossing. It’s a very, very fluffy plot, so maybe that’s why I managed to read it all in one go. But it was just… so… bland. There is really no difference between the characters’ voices, and everything just kind of works out all the time, and this honestly shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. It isn’t like I was reading Hawthorne.
And the constant she likes him, but he doesn’t like her; now he likes her but she doesn’t like him was irksome. Having never actually read any of the author’s work, I sort of figured they would be going through more of a comedy of errors trying to figure out if they should be a couple and not spend so much time pining and being angsty. A less deceptive title would have been Better Off Friends? Then maybe I wouldn’t have bothered reading it at all.
I have found a first book in a series that completely eliminates any burning need I may have to read the subsequent books.
TheI have finally found it.
I have found a first book in a series that completely eliminates any burning need I may have to read the subsequent books.
The 100 caught my eye at the library because the cover had one of those little "this is going to be a TV show!" stickers on it, and then I read the dust jacket and it looked like a futuristic dystopia survival story, and when they're done right I really like those.
But the dust jacket doesn't do the best job explaining the plot, which is basically:
– There is a space colony of people who escaped Earth after a nuclear war finally wiped out the planet 300 years ago. (Even though it isn't explicitly stated, I feel like these people were probably all Americans, since (view spoiler)[when the delinquents make it back to Earth someone says that they are on the east coast of what was once the US (hide spoiler)], and when they were evacuating the planet they made sure to leave enough time in the schedule to (view spoiler)[stop by Paris and take some relics (hide spoiler)].)
– So now they live on a giant spaceship in the sky, which is divided into three parts and full of classist strife.
– The colony has a bunch of laws in place to keep population down and ensure the survival of the human race on the spaceship until such time as Earth is deemed habitable again, but apparently no sex ed information available to teens.
– Juvenile delinquents are the best gauge of whether or not Earth is habitable again, because they were all terrible and (view spoiler)[going to die anyway because of another major plot point (hide spoiler)].
– So 100 of them are sent to Earth. (Hence, the name!)
– Everyone is concerned with saving his or her own ass and there's pretty much no one to root for (although I did like Clarke). It's a sort of futuristic Lord of the Flies vibe, but minus a conch or any real excitement.
– The few choices that aren't made for selfish reasons are mostly done for teenage love, and it's the kind of teenage love that makes you think that if they had time to take a breather and gain some perspective—if they spent a little bit of time together in a non–life-or-death capacity—they probably wouldn't be so willing to kill and die for each other.
– Four narrators is too many.
– Glass is a terrible name.
This is a book driven by everyone's seeeecrets, so I was willing to overlook some of the cheesier lines in order to finish it and see what they were and where everyone stood. But it ended on a pretty predictable plot twist and with Clarke still the only character I even sort of liked, so I'm tapping out.
Okay, first can I just say that I’ve had this stuck in my head the entire time I’ve been reading this book. Which isn’t the worst song in the world, tOkay, first can I just say that I’ve had this stuck in my head the entire time I’ve been reading this book. Which isn’t the worst song in the world, thankfully, but yeesh.
So much about this book is appealing to me: It takes place in the future but has a 1920s bootlegger vibe to it, as well as a touch of the Gotham City, with the criminals basically running the place and the DA letting it slide. There’s a dash of romance, which isn’t too cheesy or Romeo and Juliet-ish (although there is a bit of that element as well), and a girl who is just trying to protect her immediate family—her older brother (who suffered a head injury as a child that affected his mental development), her younger sister, and their invalid grandmother—from being sucked into the illegal activities of their mafiya Family. And there’s a dash of Essence of Soviet Russia thrown in for good measure, and not just because the Balanchines are Russian mafiya.
Anya is a strong character. The titles of the chapters had me smiling (sometimes grimly), and her narrative style is never dull. She is a smart cookie, hell-bent on survival and protecting her family, but there are also moments where she seems very much sixteen and it is overwhelmingly sad that she’s living with all of this on her shoulders. Her friendship with Scarlet isn’t overly angsty or competitive, although there is some discord. And Win... oh Win. He starts off so flat and blah, and I was thinking, Oh great, this again, but then he turns out to be funny and sweet and I get the feeling there will be so much more to him in the next two books.
There are a lot of loose ends, though. I’m not sure if this is a dystopian future or what, but basically the government is perpetually broke and there are taxes on everything, from water to paper to emails. Pretty much no new clothes are being manufactured, paper books are officially a thing of the past, and coffee and chocolate are illegal. Coffee can be found at speakeasies, and chocolate is supplied by “the big-five chocolate families,” one of which is Anya’s, the Balanchines. There’s no explanation as to how the world got this way, and the only reasoning behind why chocolate is banned in the US now is Anya’s recollection of her father explaining to her that it was just something the Powers That Be found easiest to live without and so it was made verboten. Not very solid world-building, but not entirely illogical either.
Truthfully, I thought the book started out very strong, lagged a bit in the middle, and then picked back up in the last 70 or so pages. I toyed with the idea of giving a 3.5 based on how intense I found the ending, but I couldn’t bring myself to bump it up when the middle bits fell so flat with me. Before I’d even really begun my personal race to the finish, however, I had already requested the second book in the trilogy from the library. (Yes! It is! A trilogy! I thought it was a standalone until I consulted GR. I! Am! So! Excited!) I should get it in the next two days, but I will have to savor it slowly, like a good bar of Balanchine Special Dark, as the final book doesn’t come out until October....more
This is wavering somewhere between 3.5 stars and an unprecedented 3.75 stars for me. I’m leaning more toward the 3.5, which is partly because IOh boy.
This is wavering somewhere between 3.5 stars and an unprecedented 3.75 stars for me. I’m leaning more toward the 3.5, which is partly because I had such unbelievably high expectations for this book and quite honestly it was a bit of a struggle to get through parts of it, while other parts had me all, “Whaaaaat?”
I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll begin with what I felt was right with The 5th Wave and go from there.
I’m not usually a sci-fi fan but I’ve noticed myself leaning more toward alien-type books recently. Up until about a year and a half ago I was pretty much strictly a realistic fiction kind of girl. Then I got into dystopias and apocalyptic fiction. Then I read the Lux series (which, sorry, I know I bring it up a lot) and I started getting more into the idea of aliens. So The 5th Wave is a winning combination for me in that it brings me into the middle of the beginning of the alien apocalypse and everyone is struggling to survive while the Others keep watch. Score!
The book is also told from several different perspectives: Cassie, the bold high school girl who lives only to keep her promise to her younger brother, Sammy, and reunite with him; a Silencer; and Zombie, whose real identity is pretty obvious from the get-go but his portions of the book are so action-packed and interesting that I didn’t care. Sammy’s narrative didn’t do anything for the story, the Silencer’s basically served as a massive spoiler, and Cassie really grated on me, but Zombie—wow. All the action, the psychological trauma, the internal battle between what he wanted to be and who he still was... this guy had it all going for him, and I was more able to lose myself in his chapters than in anyone else’s.
But alas, nothing gold can stay. My problems are thus:
Firstly, if every narrator you have is going to be telling me not to trust anyone, I’m not going to trust anyone. The very intriguing idea of who to trust when you don’t know what the enemy looks like is brought up time and time again, and yet when it came down to it, I was the only one not trusting anybody. All the characters were toting around their weapons and lamenting the fact they were all alone in the world, and then the moment someone else comes along and offers them a lifeline they take it.
Second, when the interchanging narratives are set up the way these are, it’s basically Spoiler City. I knew the identity of the Silencer long before Cassie did, almost immediately after his chapter ended, so there was zero suspense there. I knew Zombie’s pre-alien apocalypse identity at the open of his chapter. There were a few plot points that kept me guessing—what Cassie saw at Camp Ashpit vs. how Vosch explains it later to Zombie; the twist between Zombie and Ringer out in the combat zone—but for the most part it was a matter of me slapping my forehead and yelling the alien apocalypse novel version of “don’t go into the basement!” at all the characters.
There is a lot of repetition—of the Milgram tests, of the theme of a person-as-battlefield, of a silver chain linking someone to something—and while some of it did serve nicely to tie the narratives together, some of it seemed like a bit of a stretch. How many people talk about feeling linked by a silver chain? It makes sense if you are the person who happens to own said silver chain; then you may see ways you are “chained” to other things, ideas, or people. But if you have no idea of the significance of a SILVER chain, why are you going to drop that line? Cassie.
And finally, my biggest grievance: Evan Walker, y u so creepy??
I’m reading reviews where people love this guy, and I got a distinctly Edward Cullen/Christian Grey feel from the dude. He (view spoiler)[lurks outside doors, changes Cassie’s clothes when she’s unconscious, dresses her in his dead sister’s clothes, talks about the dead girlfriend he loved so, so much right before kissing Cassie, tells a girl he hardly knows how she saved him, reads her diary, does some weird soul-meld with her, and, oh yeah, he stalks her for months while trying to summon the willpower to kill her(hide spoiler)]—and I can’t even blame Stockholm syndrome for why Cassie falls under his dubious spell. Any respect I had for her was pretty effectively squashed when she started getting hearteyed over Evan.
[Side note: I keep seeing things in reviews about a love triangle. The entire time I was reading I dreaded the advent of the love triangle, but there isn’t actually a love triangle. It’s more like an unrequited love line which serves no purpose to the narrative. Can’t we all just kick alien ass without getting weird feelings in our pants for people who don’t like us back? And while I’m doing side notes, did anyone else keep misreading Camp Ashpit as Camp Apeshit? Because I did. Every. Single. Time.]
So The 5th Wave wasn’t nearly as good as I thought it would be, but I’m still very much looking forward to the rest of the series. There was incredible tension in the narrative, because I knew when the characters were being stupid even if they didn’t, and I kept proverbially leaning forward in my seat waiting for them to realize what I already knew. Children being trained up for war creeps me out in any context, even if the logic behind it is a little shaky. And while there are flaws in the logic of the 5th Wave, Waves 1 – 5 are just ingenious. I mean, if aliens were to come to our planet and try to take it over, honestly these are great ways to divide and conquer humanity.
Which makes me suspicious that Rick Yancey might actually be an alien. Do we actually have any proof that he is who he says he is? Sure, he’s smiling all innocently in his author photo, but (view spoiler)[Dr. Pam was super smiley, too (hide spoiler)]. Can someone please get Mulder and Scully on this?["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It’s weird to me that this series isn’t more well-known. It seems like something a lot of people would enjoy: cute, humorous, a creative take on the wIt’s weird to me that this series isn’t more well-known. It seems like something a lot of people would enjoy: cute, humorous, a creative take on the whole time-travel thing, with a bit of romance and a lot of mystery. There are ghosts (including the very funny ghost of a gargoyle demon), some age-old secret societies, and a heroine who, while sometimes painfully naïve, handles the majority of what comes her way with spirit and good humor, if not grace and serenity. And these books are quick reads, a nice palate cleanser between heavier stuff, but still real page-turners.
Sapphire Blue does have its weaknesses—Gwen and Gideon’s romance has the whole instalove thing going on, seeing as they’ve only known each other a week by the end of this book, and sometimes I feel like something was lost in translation when it comes to characterization—but the pacing is good, the mystery is intriguing, and I laughed out loud a few times. Here’s an example of a report from the Annals of the Guardians:
1312h: We see a rat. I am in favor of running it through with my sword, but Leroy feeds it the rest of his sandwich and christens it Audrey....
1524: Audrey comes back. Otherwise, no unusual incidents.
There are these little jokes throughout the whole book (and its predecessor, Ruby Red) that serve to lighten the mood and break up the heavier bits. The best way I can think of to describe Gier’s writing style is that if JK Rowling, Louise Rennison, and Eva Ibbotson’s books had a baby, it might come out looking a little like this. It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, which frustrated me because I have to wait until October for the final installment! What madness is this?!
Since my review of Ruby Red I have figured out that (view spoiler)[Gwen and Gideon are most likely sixth cousins (hide spoiler)], which is a little less disgusting than I thought it would be. In case that’s been keeping you up at nights.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
“What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person.”
Is there a special place in hell for people who don’t like2.5/5 stars
“What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person.”
Is there a special place in hell for people who don’t like a John Green book? Because I feel like everyone and their mom just raves about John Green (and after reading The Fault in Our Stars I can definitely see why, to an extent), and here I was, trudging through this book and thinking how much I wanted to kick Quentin and Margo, but at the same time feeling like they are somehow supposed to represent Me as the Reader so maybe it is me who is annoying and not them.
And then I’d think, No, it’s not me; it’s definitely them. Because Quentin’s attitude throughout the book is that he is just so much better than all his peers, because he doesn’t care about dumb high school things like prom and he does care about what happened to Margo, the girl next door whom he totally loves even though they barely knew each other after childhood. Meanwhile, all those other banana-heads are worrying about prom dresses and breaking keg stand records and writing Margo off as gone forever, which of course she can’t be, because she left all these clues (more on that later).
And I sort of get this. When I was in high school, I know I thought I was better than some of the popular kids, in my own very speshul outcast way. I know more than once I thought, Look at those idiots, all worried about prom and thinking this is the best time of our lives. If this is the best time I’m ever going to get, I’d rather be dead. But I also know (from actual firsthand accounts and not just the rose-colored glasses that come with Reminiscing on My Youth) that I wasn’t quite as big a jerk about it.
The last third of this book is what bumped it up from two stars to a high 2.5 for me. The shift in Quentin’s perspective, the banter in the Dreidel, Radar’s flag shirt, the adrenaline rush of driving all day and all night with your friends to get to somewhere you may not even be able to find... that was the portion that got me excited, that sucked me in so I was sitting at the dining room table, unable to get up and move to a more comfortable reading spot because just a few more pages...! That last third was the part where I needed to know what would happen next almost as much as I needed oxygen, and after my reaction to The Fault in Our Stars this was really what I was expecting to feel while reading Paper Towns.
But the majority of PT just didn’t do it for me. The disappearance felt like a cry for attention more than a mystery (as much as I hated to agree with Q’s irritating and slightly sexist friend Ben, I did there) and the clues read like someone just trying to prove how much smarter she was than everybody else: “See, idiots? I can vanish and even with all these painstakingly thought-out clues you will never find me or know why I’m gone! Or if you do, it’ll be too late!” All the littry tie-ins and the symbolism were cool, and are normally the kind of thing I like, but it felt like John Green was cramming a lot of it into a small space: “Look, Moby-Dick is relevant to this situation! And so is Walt Whitman! And also maps! Keep up!” There were just too many messages being conveyed at once—letting people be themselves, the danger of putting people on pedestals, the Whitman/Melville tie-ins—and after a while all the signals were getting jammed.
I’ve been reading YA for fifteen years or so and during that time I have read some real drivel. Paper Towns wasn’t the worst and it certainly wasn’t drivel, but it is the first book that has made me feel as curmudgeonly about fictional teens as I usually am about real-life teens. Maybe Q and Margo are actually very well-written and “real” characters, and it turns out I am more into caricatures of teens and have actually been living a lie all these years. Perhaps I have officially become old and crusty; perhaps my negative reaction to this book means I don’t actually like “real” YA. But I don’t have time to muse on this, for it is way past my bedtime. Would you be a dear and pass me my cane so I can hobble to bed? Such a good child! Here, have an old butterscotch candy for your troubles....more
“You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”
Set in August of 1986, Eleanor & Park is p“You can be Han Solo,” he said, kissing her throat. “And I’ll be Boba Fett. I’ll cross the sky for you.”
Set in August of 1986, Eleanor & Park is primarily a story of first love. Boy meets new girl; new girl looks, dresses, and acts all wrong; boy and new girl harbor an illogical resentment for one another that gradually gives way to a quiet friendship and, eventually, love. But it is also a story about trying to fit in in the world, and of the light and dark sides of family life. It’s about survival and learning to be yourself, even when you think you’re awful. And it’s about letting someone love you.
It was refreshing to read about a female MC who doesn’t just think she’s a big, awkward loner, but actually is a big, awkward loner. And it was even better to read a teenage love story in which one person isn’t perfect while the other is a walking Fail—Eleanor and Park both have their issues and hang-ups and even though Eleanor is probably the more insecure one (and with her family life and the secrets she has to keep, that’s not surprising), Park is also uncomfortable in his own skin and unsure of his identity.
And wow, reading this was like taking a trip to Nostalgia City. Adolescence and first love, though painful, are such universal experiences—hence the appeal for authors—and even though I wasn’t even born until the end of this book’s events and my teenage years took place in the Aughts, it was so easy to relate to both MCs. I had the Awkward Fat Girl Experience. I dealt with mean girls, changing for gym as quickly and inconspicuously as possible, and the agony of unrequited love and then that weird, semi-flirting when you like someone and they like you, maybe, and you aren’t sure and you’re terrified so you both just kind of dance around it. I remember trying to make a mix CD for someone I liked (even if it was as Just a Friend, the process was still a Very Big Deal) and selecting songs that I hoped they’d love and which would change that person’s world as much as they’d changed mine. I remember listening to my Discman and Walkman until the batteries died and, in the ’90s, painstakingly taping songs off the radio and my parents’ records to make the perfect mix tape. And I remember the first time I listened to “Pictures of You” and “How Soon Is Now?” and the way those songs made me feel.
All that said, this is not quite a five-star novel. Though it deals with other issues, the majority of the book is composed of Eleanor’s and Park’s thoughts about each other. And as sweet as those thoughts are there were some moments where the book, while not really uninteresting or lagging, felt... bland, maybe? I really enjoyed it and I read it in about five hours, but there’s only so much of a teenager’s inner musings on how beautiful his/her significant other is that I can handle before I start to crave more action. Park’s dialogue was sometimes a little unrealistic for a sixteen-year-old boy, I thought, a little too well-spoken with the romantic sentiments. This is also technically Rowell’s first novel (she wrote it before Attachments but published it after) and it just has that feel to it at parts. Not in a bad way and nothing that really detracts from the story; it is just evident in some bits that this was a first go and the writing doesn’t feel quite as comfortable, I guess, as Attachments did.
All in all, Eleanor & Park is a wonderful book about two outsiders in love. If you are a book crier, I suggest you read it with tissues at the ready. There are some sappy moments that might get to you, and the climax had me tearing up a bit....more
Harley is absolutely convinced she wants to date and marry Trent, her Mr. Right, and as luck would have it he has recently broken up with his girlfrieHarley is absolutely convinced she wants to date and marry Trent, her Mr. Right, and as luck would have it he has recently broken up with his girlfriend, Stephanie. Then Jason comes into her life, rear-ending her car and becoming her fake boyfriend in order to make Trent jealous, and things get complicated. To make matters worse, Harley’s massage therapist mother is getting suspiciously close to one of her students. Everyone at church is talking, and Harley’s mom and Reverend Dad aren’t doing anything to quell the rumors.
This is a cute book; the author described it as being a “chicklit, romantic comedy,” and that is apt. There’s no real dark side to the plot and the conflicts are all resolved by the end, making this a feel-good, happy-ending type story. Some elements, like the dialogue between Jason and Harley, were reminiscent to me of Meg Cabot or Sarah Dessen. Harley has a very strong sense of morality (sometimes to her detriment) and there were some parts where she came off a little preachy, but overall I liked her voice. And even though I accidentally read a spoiler about Travis before reading TTAF and was able to guess Ricky’s secret fairly early on, I did like how those twists played out, as well as Harley’s reaction to them. I felt like a proud mama when Harley responded to Travis’s secret like she did. And I really liked Stephanie’s “here’s fifty cents, buy yourself a backbone” line.
But as much as I liked some aspects, others bugged me too much for a full three rating. For example, Harley’s BFF Shelly had pretty much no redeeming qualities that I could see. She’s grieving and I understand that, but the way she treated Harley? Maybe Harley can forgive it, but I don’t think a crying jag in the car excuses the things she did. People go through hard times and sometimes friendship is about supporting someone even when they are being horrible, and I imagine that’s where Harley and Shelly were, but since there weren’t many examples of Shelly being a good friend and not a boy-crazy man collector I just couldn’t like her.
I’m not 100% sure how I want to rate this book. It’s not a full three stars but I don’t think it’s really a 2.5, either, because I did enjoy it more than I enjoy most of my 2.5s. Maybe a 2.75? Am I making it too complicated? Probably. I do like a little more edge to my YA, so I never really got that moment where I felt like this book and I were MFEO, but it’s a good, light read for anyone looking for mid-range YA with a positive message....more
“We’ve got at least seven hours to get what we want before the sun comes up.”
Taking place over the course of one hot Melbourne night, Graffiti Moon is“We’ve got at least seven hours to get what we want before the sun comes up.”
Taking place over the course of one hot Melbourne night, Graffiti Moon is basically a chick flick in book form: Girl is in love with Mystery Man. Girl and her friends go out one night and the Guy She’d Never Date walks in and offers to help her find Mystery Man. Girl goes out into the night with Guy She’d Never Date, not knowing that he is in fact Mystery Man, and the two of them both secretly dig each other and there’s a comedy of errors, etc. “Will they end up together?” we are supposed to be asking, even though we all know the answer.
Because this is such a well-worn plot, I was impressed with Cath Crowley’s ability to tweak it and make it fresh and her own. It would be easy for things to get boring and clichéd and for the characters to be one-dimensional, but that never happened. Ed and Lucy and their friends are quirky and witty; even the few predictable plot points never felt contrived. The characters’ musings on art are woven skillfully through the story—opinions on Vermeer, on Rothko and Magritte—and even though I know next to nothing about most of the artists and art forms they mentioned (a glassblowing aficionado I am not), I never felt lost; only swept away.
Even though Ed and Lucy are both technically MCs, I really thought this was more Ed’s story than Lucy’s. He was more complex, with a harder life and a secret identity and more problems to overcome. His moral dilemmas and the loss of his father figure were more engaging for me than anything Lucy had going on, although I really enjoyed her dialogue. And Leo, who is technically a fringe character, is bumped up to MC status since his works as Poet are placed between chapters. So much is told about Leo in those few lines that I felt like I knew him as well as Ed does.
Though I liked A Little Wanting Song better than Graffiti Moon, GM is still a great book. Everything is so silly and sad in this one night, with everyone going after what they want and finding hope and happiness in unexpected places. There’s enough meat to it to keep it from being brain candy, but overall it is a warm-fuzzy sort of book.
[Note for my Aussie friends: Seriously, what kind of hills does Melbourne have? Is it common to bike off them and need police assistance? I really need an answer to this; it's been bugging me for 24 hours.]...more
Note: If you have problems with anxiety, depression, and/or self-harm and are avoiding triggers, this book is not for you. You may also want to avoidNote: If you have problems with anxiety, depression, and/or self-harm and are avoiding triggers, this book is not for you. You may also want to avoid this review, since I touch upon those topics.
When I first heard about The Program, I was excited. I’m not 100% sure what I expected it to be—certainly not the World’s Most Realistic Depiction of Teen Depression and Suicide, considering it’s a young adult dystopia—but I wasn’t anticipating the amalgamation of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Delirium that it turned out to be. It was an intense story, one of those “stay up late and read it all in one night” novels, but there were a few factors that kept this from being a four-star read.
As with most young adult dystopias, the premise is interesting, if not entirely realistic: In the world of The Program (which seems fairly close to our current world, timing-wise) teenage depression and suicide has become an epidemic, believed to be a transferrable disease, and having your mind wiped clean by The Program is the only way to ensure survival. Sloane and her boyfriend, James, vowed when Sloane’s brother killed himself that they would take care of each other and protect each other from The Program. Unfortunately The Program’s reach is everywhere, and avoiding it is an exercise in futility.
The description on the dust jacket pitches this as a book about surviving unavoidable depression, suicide, and/or memory-wiping, the main focus is the romance. The big question Suzanne Young seems to be posing in The Program is, “Does love conquer all?” When your memory has been wiped clean and your friends and your boyfriend selectively and systematically removed from your brain, once you’re sent out into the world again—will you find your way back to your old life? Will those people and emotions from your previous life, the ones you swore they’d never take from you—will they return?
The characterization was a little weak. As a protagonist, Sloane didn’t have a whole lot to set her apart from everyone else; the majority of the focus of the book is on her memories as they are being relived and erased and those are, for the most part, about her relationship with James. So they are sweet, and at times they are heartbreaking, but there’s just not a whole lot going on with her beyond that. I felt for her, I really did, especially when she was trying to fight The Program and losing. Sometimes no matter how strong and determined you are, you can’t win. But she was a pretty generic white bread type, all tragic for most of Part I, letting James fight for her, and that negatively colored my perspective of her for the majority of the rest of the book.
But oh my god, the emotional aspects of this book left me raw. In case the note at the start of this review didn’t put you off, let me say I’m in an excellent place right now, mentally and emotionally, and parts of The Program made me feel claustrophobic and panicky and brought up past feelings and experiences that were almost overwhelming. The Program was so gripping, though, that I didn’t want to give up on it. Instead, I took some time at a few points to put the book down and sort of breathe through it and remind myself it was fiction.
And reflecting on it now, I think that is an indication that Young knows how to write about depression and fear and helplessness in a way that fully immerses you in those feelings. Even though I didn’t necessarily agree with the way The Program presented these issues as something that just happens to you, completely unavoidably, and the only cures are to either let the Big Bad erase your memory or commit suicide, I can’t help but applaud Suzanne Young’s ability to take the feelings of depression and isolation and render them so raw and realistic that I doubt anyone could read this book and not say, “Wow, so that’s what it feels like.”
The sequel, The Treatment, is set for an April 2014 release, and it’s going on my “like white on rice” TBR shelf because despite The Program’s flaws, I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. I can’t wait to see what happens to Sloane & Co., whether anyone beats The Program, and if there are any explanations regarding what led to the major flaw in logic that convinced adults the best way to treat an epidemic of teenage depression was to put more pressure on them to appear healthy and, if they failed at that, take them away from their lives and erase their memories and personalities. (Because really, guys? Really?)