There are definitely similarities between Scott Westerfelds ‘Uglies’-series and Suzanne Young’s ‘The Program’. Both are sci fi, and where ‘Uglies’ is about perfecting our physical appearance, ‘The Program’ is about changing our moods and memories to “secure” teenagers mental health. Nonetheless ‘The Program’ felt original and was a really good read. It became super exciting after a little too slow and incredibly sad start.

by Peter


‘The Program’ (The Program #1)


Suzanne Young



Reading Level:


First Published:

April 30th 2013

Publisher, this copy:

Simon Pulse

Feelings Thermometer:

Imagine a life where everyone at your high school has lost a close friend to suicide. This is reality to 17 year old Sloane Barstow and her boyfriend James, who lives in a society where teen suicides has increased dramatically and still accelerates.

Of course the parents in the society also have lost children, so to prevent the epidemic – as they call it – to escalate into an even worse catastrophe, it has been decided to run The Program for all teens until their 18th birthday.

Removal of possible disease carriers

The Programs first step is maintained by handlers, who watch all students at high school for beginning signs and symptoms of depression. The second step refers to the removal of possible disease carriers, and the last step is to isolate and treat the infected students at several institutions for six weeks.

But the students themselves are literally scared to death just by the thought of being taken away and hospitalized by The Program.

Excerpt from ‘The Program’

I can’t believe they don’t understand. I wonder if it’s because adults would rather forget about their problems, the thought that ignorance is bliss. But The Program steals our memories. They reset our emotions so that we’re brand-new, never having been hurt or heartbroken. But who are we without our pasts?

Lobotomy – an old but true story

If you know your history of medicine, you’ll remember the phrase: lobotomy. When mental patients couldn’t be controlled physically in the 40ies and into the 50ies, brain surgeons performed lobotomy on them, a procedure where connections in the cerebral prefrontal cortex was scraped away with a scalpel. It was super quick, and best of all: it was cheap!

Maybe just the explicit description of the procedure gives you goosebumbs, but a lot of patients with severe psychoses became calmer after the lobotomy, and the inventor actually got the Nobel Price for it in 1949 — before anyone focused on all the zombie-like side effects, because the lobotomy made patients lose a lot of their personality which never came back.

Felt very close

Without telling too much, the “lobotomy” in The Program is performed with pills instead of scalpels. Not that it made the story less creepy! It actually made it even more scary. Because with our times too heavy use of antidepressants for any natural sadness or grief, The Program could happen tomorrow.

My curiosity grew

The story is built up in such an involving way, where you first get empathy with Sloane and James, and at the same time you only get to know tiny things about The Program and the handlers. That made my curiosity grow and my page-turning faster.

Of course the plot is about how our protagonists can escape this cruelty, but it really made it for me! Not just because it became super exciting after a little too slow and incredibly sad start, but also because there were a lot to think about after I reached the last page.