When: May 6th, 6:00 – 7:30pm
How many teens: 7 (I would have had 10, but a couple were unable to come last minute)
Cost: $0, thanks to Simon & Schuster who supplied the books & money for snacks.
The book we discussed was The Program by Suzanne Young. For those who have not heard about the book, here is what it is about.
Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.
Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.
I came in with a list of questions and was pleasantly surprised by the teen feedback. I was also happy with how talkative they were (and on topic!), especially since I had lost my voice. Below is the questions and general responses I got. I tried to stay in the moment with the teens, so some of it is not as indepth as I would like, but I think you can still get the overall picture. (Also, there will be some spoilers, you have been warned. Jump to the end for the giveaway!)
1. What did you think of the book overall?
Most of the teens loved it. There were a couple who thought it was OKAY, but none them hated it. A couple teens mentioned how parts of the book didn’t work for them/were too slow, but oddly enough it wasn’t the same for each teen. The biggest complaint is that they wished there had been more backstory to the world/a view before the Program. All but one of them said they would be reading the sequel (and were excited to see where it would go.)
2. Do you think the Program is working?
Oh, how this was a trick question. All of them agree it was working since the objective of the Program is to keep people from killing themselves. However, they all thought it wasn’t the best way to solve the suicide epidemic, especially since it meant teens were bottle up their feelings. They argued, that technically, it was making things worse since several teens kill themselves just so they don’t have to go into the Program. But they looped right back to the point that those who go into the Program are “cured” and therefore it was kind of working.
3. Do you agree that without all your memories you are just a shell of a person?
They surprised me with this one by saying no. They all agree you weren’t the same person as before, but didn’t agree with being just a “shell”. They understand why those on the outside thought that, but pointed out that the returnees were still connecting to people (even those they’d known before) and generally liked the same things they did before. They brought up the fact, that Lacey still liked older “bad” boys even after her memories had been erased.
4. Would you allow your child to go into the Program?
Again, they shocked me by saying yes. They brought up the very valid point that between the losing a child and having part of their memories erased that there was no competition. As teens, this was something they didn’t want/agree with, but they could totally understand why a parent would do it.
5. Thoughts on the romance?
The first response to this was NO MORE LOVE TRIANGLES, which brought on a slight mini-rant about all the love triangles there are in YA Lit. When I reign them in and asked who they would rather see her with James or Realm, I got a very resounding neither. I had one girl who was very Team Realm, but the rest were Team Sloane.They thought James was a jerk and Realm couldn’t be trusted. The only person they had hoped she would have hooked up with was Miller.
6. How about the orange pill? (MAJOR SPOILERS, SKIP THIS QUESTION)
We were split on this one. Half of us were annoyed that she didn’t take the pill, especially since the whole third part had been about her trying to remember. It was like getting what you wished for and be like “Oh, just kidding,” However, the other half thought she was wise to wait. They worried the pill may give her a mental breakdown, especially considering how much just one memory has screwed her up. They liked that she’s not rushing into it and hoping she’ll give it more thought before jumping in and taking it.
7. The epilogue?
We all decided we’ve been Sherlocked. No one was expecting it at all. Without giving away too much, my teens all took it pretty straightforward until I told them my theory and the clues that pointed to it. We’re all very, very anxious to see where Young plans to take it and if any of our theories are correct.
One of the things we were asked to think about was a food or drink recipe that would go along with the book.
I’ll admit I didn’t try to tie a lot of our snacks I bought to the book. We had popcorn and chips and crackers and general junk food that make teens happy. However, one of Sloane’s favorite memories is eating ice cream with her father, so there were pints of ice cream for each teen.. (Okay, and largely because this made my teens VERY happy.) Also, orange cupcakes were also mentioned in the book, which unfortunately my store didn’t have anything close to. However, it did find some with light red/pinkish frosting which reminded me of the pills from the book.
The other reason I didn’t make all the snack tie into the book is that I wanted the teens to help me come up with a recipe. We kept thinking how the Program was to make everyone “sunny”. Combine that with the bright yellow jumpsuits and we ended up on eggs…more specially an omelet. Our omelet would be Sloane’s experience and contain: tomatoes (red pill), yellow bell peppers (yellow pill), & eggplant (purple pill). Thankfully, this was a library program and I didn’t have to make omelets, because frankly they would have turned into scramble eggs! (which may have still worked all this considered.)
Take away/Lessons Learned:
My teens continue to surprise me. I wasn’t sure how long this discussion would last, but they easily talked the whole 90 minutes. I think they would have talked even longer if I had let them. I’ve been saying that book groups don’t work for us, but this may have been the eye-opener I needed. The majority of the teens showed up and all of them begged to do this again.
Extras aka but wait there’s more!:
Host your own Book Club – enter for your chance to win five (5) copies of The Program and a $50 Visa gift card! (This can be for library and non-library book clubs!)
Prizing provided by Simon & Schuster
Giveaway open to US addresses only
About the author: Suzanne Young currently lives in Tempe, Arizona, where she teaches high school English. When not writing obsessively, Suzanne can be found searching her own tragic memories for inspiration. She is the author of several books for teens, including The Program, A Need So Beautiful, and A Want So Wicked. Visit the Official Site of The Program and Suzanne Young’s Official Site