On Monday, March 28, book club met at the Main Library to discuss Suzanne Young's dystopian, not-too-far-into-the-future YA novel, The Program.
When suicide becomes a worldwide epidemic, the only known cure is The Program, a treatment in which painful memories are erased, a fate worse than death to seventeen-year-old Sloane who knows that The Program will steal memories of her dead brother and boyfriend.
We had our usual spirited discussion, with MANY teen-submitted questions (28!!!), and while we strayed a bit to electro-convulsive therapy (for use in cases of extreme, therapy- and medication-resistant depression), for the most part we talked about the awful treatment of teens in this story.
Book club members were very upset about the way the adults in The Program acted as though any sign of sadness or grief was a death sentence, and they felt that the Program (which used drugs and therapy to "erase" bad or "infected" memories) was a horrible abuse. As one book club member asked, "Did all these adults forget that THEY were once teens?!?!?!"
Here are some of the questions/topics we discussed:
- "Is it ethical for the government to erase the memories of teens to protect them?" (The overwhelming response: "NO!")
- "Lacey's awesomeness." (We agreed that the main character's best friend-turned-erased-memories-turned-new friend was very cool.)
- "If teens can't talk or trust their parents, who can they talk to other than depressed teens?" (This was a major problem for us. In a world where The Program is the only option, the adults ignore the importance of therapy and talking about - rather than hiding - one's feelings.)
- "Would you choose to forget in order to get rid of depression? Would you send a friend or family member to have their memories wiped in order to protect them?" (Book clubbers overwhelmingly said no, but Kearsten said, as a parent, if her only two options were the Program/wiping her kid's memories or risking her child committing suicide - and losing her/him forever - she'd probably choose the Program. Kearsten is surprised the teens didn't throw things at her.)
Already read The Program? Why not try one of these teen-recommended readalikes?
Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Lena looks forward to receiving the government-mandated cure that prevents the delirium of love and leads to a safe, predictable, and happy life, until ninety-five days before her eighteenth birthday and her treatment, she falls in love.
The Giver (and sequels) by Lois Lowry. At the ceremony of Twelve, the community's twelve-year-olds accept their predetermined Life Assignments. Jonas is chosen for something special.Gradually he learns that power lies in feelings. Then his own power is put to the test -- he may not be ready and he may not be able to save someone he loves.
Rash by Pete Hautman. In a future society that has decided it would "rather be safe than free," sixteen-year-old Bo's anger control problems land him in a tundra jail where he survives with the help of his running skills and an artificial intelligence program named Bork.
Shock Point by April Henry. Fifteen-year-old Cassie Streng is determined to expose her stepfather after learning that he is giving a dangerous experimental drug to his teenaged psychiatric patients, but he sends her to a boot camp for troubled teens in Mexico in order to keep her quiet.
Speak by Laurie Halse Andersen. A traumatic event near the end of the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda's freshman year in high school.
Unwind by Neal Shusterman. In a future world where those between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can have their lives "unwound" and their body parts harvested for use by others, three teens go to extreme lengths to uphold their beliefs--and, perhaps, save their own lives.