Ideal For A Book Group

The Program - Suzanne Young

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.


Are there things worse than death?


Is the "cure" worse than the "disease"?


I think The Program would be a great book for a book group.  As I read it I had many thoughts run through my mind regarding the stress and pressure to conform, the dangers of power and control and propaganda gone unchecked, conflict of interest between helping people and appearing to have a good record of success.


I'm sure most of us are aware that teen suicide is a very real, tragic and heartbreaking issue that touches the lives of many.


However, in my opinion, this book doesn't really address the real issue(s) of teen suicide, nor does it try.  In this book it's stated that teen suicide has become an epidemic, but this premise is simply a vehicle to tell a different story, not intended to address in fictional form the real issue(s) of teen suicide.


Without exception, and again in my opinion, every example of "depression", and teen suicide we're shown in this story seems the result of very real, reasonable, understandable and normal reactions to the extreme stress these teens are placed under not to evidence any negative emotion - even when it would be completely normal to do so, such as grief at a friend's death - or be at very real risk of being taken away and "treated" by having their memories wiped.  Most people, especially young people, would have a hard time not becoming depressed and seriously stressed under such unreasonable and artificial pressure.


Therefore the suicide issues in this book are more the result of the extreme external situation, rather than genuine emotional illness.


But although the teen suicide in this novel isn't really reflective of the causes and effects in a society without the threat of such drastic "treatment" or such Orwellian authoritarian control, it still could be used as a great spring board to discuss that topic, if a book club wanted to use it that way.


But I think the real value of this book for a book group discussion is the fact that it is an entertaining read coupled with situations that stir up many thoughts worth examining and discussing, especially regarding power, corruption, lack of oversight, control with no checks and balances, stress of conforming under serious threat and danger, what harm well meaning individuals and entities can do when there is a conflict of interest and/or too much power, loss of individual freedom of thought and expression, etc.  I found it similar in that regard to Orwell's 1984, but less dry.