“...some things are better left in the past. And true things are destined to repeat themselves.”
Suzanne Young's new novel, The Program, somehow got slapped with the label "dystopian." I'm not sure if this was thanks to early publicity or the viral nature of Goodreads shelves, or something else, but this likely inadvertent label has stuck, and it's one that seems to have stuck. Unfortunately, the dystopian label does this intriguing and unique novel a huge disservice.
If I were to slap a genre name on The Program, I'd say it's speculative fiction or allegorical alternate reality (which I don't think is actually a genre). It's set in a very familiar world, much like the modern day (it's set in my home state of Oregon, so it felt particularly familiar to me). Except in this iteration of our world, teen depression and suicide are an epidemic, one that's dealt with in an extreme way, hence The Program.
The Program is an extreme course of treatment for teen depression, in which memories of all things negative, painful and emotive are removed. Any extreme reaction can result in a trip to The Program, and those who return from the "treatment" are shells of their former selves.
In the case of The Program's narrator, Sloane, she's already seen what can happen to those who are untreated--her beloved brother died as a result of suicide, and it destroyed her parents. She made it through the dark days following her brother's death thanks to her boyfriend (and her brother's best friend), James. Together, they fight the darkness that threatens them. After that, a bunch of stuff happens (obviously, since it's not exactly a short book), all of which will massively spoil The Program if I share the details. But, let's just say, what Sloane experiences is quite harrowing and explores a number of compelling concepts including memory and social control.