What Makes a Story Worth Telling?
There have been about 130 million books ever written, each with different plots, characters, and settings; but not every book written may hold a story worth telling (Google Books). The novel “The Program” by Suzanne Young, features the action-packed, nail-biting story of two love-stricken characters facing a world of depression and the temptation of deadly relief. There is currently a rise in the creation of dystopian novels, so much so that the majority of said books have become homogenous in their plot lines and characters. This book, though, is unique in both its conflict and characters. Never before have I seen a novel so focussed around suicide, especially with suicide written as an “epidemic” like in the society described in “The Program”.
However, my group’s chosen book wasn’t all about fear and death. The two main characters Sloane Barstow and James Murphy led the hooked reader through memories lost and love regained. “The Program” is a story worth telling because it shows the passion, perseverance, and lessons learned from man’s mistakes, all in one book. Our story begins with a group of hormone-driven teenagers. Sloane and her childhood friends are in high school, all trying to make it until their 18th birthdays, when they won’t be in danger of being sent to The Program. In Part I of the book, the reader only sees the Sloane’s memories full of loss and depression.
It is only when Sloane gets sent to The Program, where she’s forced to share her soon to be forgotten memories, that she shares her most precious times. Sloane and James have a fierce relationship that keeps them together in the world, and their goal is to not only escape The Program, but to escape depression as well. Meanwhile, their friends, Miller and Lacey, take a different approach. Lacey had been sent to The Program after she had been “infected” by depression in two weeks, unbeknownst to parents, friends and her boyfriend Miller. After Miller’s unsuccessful attempts to make Lacey remember him, he too was victim to a depression that caused him to kill himself.
The author chose to portray death not as a victorious escape from The Program, but as a tragedy and desperate attempt to escape from everything. Not only were they leaving The Program, but their torn families and grief-stricken friends as well. Even with the many who gave up or consented to death’s cold escape, there were few who fought the inevitable until the end. Sloane Barstow fought to stay alive, even when the odds were against her. After James gets sent to The Program, Sloane still tries to survive by remembering “they reset our emotions so that we’re brand-new, never having been hurt or heartbroken.
But who are we without our pasts?”(97). Sloane was one of the few who wanted to defy depression AND The Program. Her brother, friends, peers and loved ones were all slowly slipping away, but Sloane hung on with a passionate perseverance rarely seen. Throughout the novel Sloane is determined to escape The Program, depression and suicide. When James gets “infected”, she still tries to bring him back through any means possible. Taking him to classes, monitoring him, faking a healthy relationship, doing his hw, and more.
In times of desperation is when the true strength of a person comes out. After Sloane herself is finally admitted to The Program, stripped of her memories, and assigned an undercover handler named Realm, she still has a hidden will to rebel. Sloane’s only thought while in The Program is that she’s “desperate to go home. I’m going to play this game, beat The Program. I’m going to get out of here.” (245).
Unlike the other “difficult” patients, Sloane takes a different approach to escaping. She has a hidden agenda, and is determined not to let anyone know, because it could mean being erased completely. There are many lessons to learn from this novel. Though this book largely talks about the temptation of suicide, the consequences outnumber anything good about something so tragic. Families are torn, friends “infected”, and no one is allowed to talk about it or attend the funeral of someone who committed suicide. Everything is done in an attempt to hide the problem, and it is a good lesson for others who read this novel.
Sometimes people don’t really want to deal with a problem, so they pretend it isn’t there or should not be faced raw. Also, another lesson shown in this book is that love conquers all, and sometimes all you need is someone to say “I love you madly” to get you through (383). James and Sloane had a special bond, and it caused their undoing but saving at the same time. They were meant to be together, but sometimes fate isn’t enough. You have to fight for what you want in life, and James and Sloane did just that.
This novel was full of secrets, memories lost, and battles won. A pure and simple teen love story was put to the test when faced with death, suicide and the threat of The Program. At the end of the novel, Sloane is faced with the sole choice of recovering her memories, or living without her past. After debating with herself for quite some time, Sloane decided “I begin again… thinking to myself that sometimes… the only real thing is now” (400).