This review contains spoilers.
This will be a long review (or essay)… but I have so much I want to discuss!
The Treatment, by Suzanne Young, picks up where The Program left off. Being agonisingly left on tenterhooks by the first novel, I made sure I had the sequel in my hands days after finishing the first.
Check out my review of The Program for a quick recap. If you’re way too impatient…
The Program follows Sloane as she fights to avoid the clutches of the Program, which aims to “cure” her of her depression. The cure involves removing all memories the Program believes to be a threat to a person’s well-being. Despite all her efforts, she was eventually flagged after her boyfriend, James, was taken. All her depressing memories were erased, including those of James, who the Program believed to be a critical reason for her depression.
Against the odds, Sloane and James found each other and recovered a few key memories. They proved as a threat to the Program and its success, and have been on the run ever since.
Back to The Treatment…
Sloane and James are still on the run from the Program. They are deprived of their memories, however they now have possession of the Treatment, a pill which has the power to restore all memories. But, they only have one.
While on the run, Sloane and James are constantly plagued with the burden of the Treatment. Does Sloane take it, or James? Or do they hold onto it in the hopes of it being replicated?
To me, I thought the answer was pretty obvious: have the pill replicated. But I never could comprehend the mentality behind their decision making. They didn’t want to remember, they wanted to live in the now, and remember only the events since the Program. Why?
The first novel ended with a few things I thought would be explored more in the sequel. For example, the epidemic was spreading, affecting adults, not only teens. Such themes, to my disappointment, were not addressed in this novel.
In The Treatment, just as many if not more questions are left unanswered. The reason behind the suicide epidemic starting? An answer is offered, one that sounds more and more like Suicide Club (a girl suffering from depression seemingly convinces her friends to kill themselves together with her), but the answer is dispelled just as quickly as it is offered: “The Program is breeding suicide” (319). The constant fear of being admitted into the Program drives teens to depression. So, was there ever an epidemic?
Forgiving the mother
Sloane seems to forgive her mother, at least after some hesitation and therapy, for admitting her into the Program. I think she had to forgive her mother. If Sloane had taken the Treatment (as she contemplated), then she never would have forgiven her mother, because her mother was the greater evil. Greater than the Program. Not knowing what she lost of herself in the Program makes it easier for her to forgive, because she is of the belief that her old life was full of so much pain, enough at least to warrant treatment. The new Sloane may believe her mother’s choice was for the best. That, and having James’ memories to help, builds the foundation for a closer relationship.
The one thing that confuses me most about this novel is the lobotomy. Not the why, but the how. Specifically, how did the Program manage to get permission to perform such a treatment on minors? Was that part of the admission stage? Because that itself raises more questions. As I understand the process:
1. You can be admitted to the Program by a parent/legal guardian, or
2. The Program just snatches up at-risk teens.
Concerning 1., so the parents sign a waiver, or give permission for any treatment to be made, including invasive and dangerous procedures like a lobotomy?
Concerning 2., how is permission, of any kind, granted? They are minors. Do they belong to the State? Do they seek parent’s permission? Can a parent refuse? (Both the lobotomy and/or the Program altogether.) Perhaps this was answered in the first novel, to my recollection it wasn’t. I am open to debate.
Perhaps in the world of the narrative, the Program does not need permission?
How the hell did he get the job as a handler? Why was he offered the Treatment by Dr. Evelyn Valentine? Was he a playful little kitten before he turned evil?
Bloody coward! Instead of giving Sloane the option of taking the pill (and leaving fate in her hands), along with all his cryptic messages about whether or not she’d forgive him, why not instead just tell her the truth about who he is? I would have kicked him in the boingloings!
If you’ve experienced betrayal, you’ve experienced the worst feeling in the world — unforgivable — and I completely understand Sloane not wanting to speak to him again.
Part of me is disappointed the ending was not a sad one. With a story/plot such as this, I couldn’t believe the ending would be anything but sad. I was waiting for a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-type ending.
I won’t lie though, I wanted those crazy kids to make it out of there, but the realist, the pessimist, in me didn’t believe it to be possible. The orchestration of the escape (right before Sloane’s lobotomy) seemed too smooth.
Enough about the story.
I was certainly not disappointed by Young’s style. As I mentioned in my review for The Program, I thought her writing was beautiful but unembellished, and complemented by gorgeous imagery. Even when it was macabre it was gorgeous, for instance how Realm talks of his suicide attempt.
One of the most beautiful, yet sad lines in the novel is when Sloane ponders whether she is “just a replacement of the girl [she] used to be” (75). It also sounded like a nod to Young’s other series concerning the Program, The Remedy. But, it’s when Dr. Arthur Pritchard comments on the reality of human nature, that I get a chill down my spine: “Human beings are cruel creatures. And what we don’t understand, we tamper with until we destroy it” (133).
A revelation just hit me: the Program seeks to rid sympathy and empathy. Sloane and James (all characters for that matter) try so hard not to let depression conquer them, they forbid themselves from crying, from feeling what is most natural — sympathy; a capacity to understand. When one hears sad news, the other stops themselves from feeling lest they should be considered ‘at-risk’.
It is heartbreaking to imagine that ‘normalcy’ means being deprived of sympathy or empathy.
I rate this book a Fox in Socks.
10. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
9. Wormwood: A Drama of Paris – Marie Corelli
8. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
7. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
5. Fox in Socks – Dr. Seuss
4. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
3. The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger
2. Dune – Frank Herbert
1. Fallen – Lauren Kate
0. 50 Shades of Grey – E. L. James
Read more about the scale here