Review: The Program – Suzanne Young

Review: The Program – Suzanne YoungThe Program by Suzanne Young
Series: The Program #1
Published by Simon Pulse
Published: April 30th 2013
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five-stars

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

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.


Is there a word stronger than love? Infatuation? Obsessed? Crazy over the top awesome? Basically all those words sum up my feelings on The Program. It has everything I look for in a great book. Amazingly compelling characters, a strong, well thought out story, excellent writing, and that great concept of fate and what it means. It reminded me of Delirium from the get go(a little less dystopian in my opinion) and it has quickly become one of my favorite books. And what gets me is that I was in no rush to read it. Sure I had it on my to read list for a long time, but it is hard keeping up with all the books. I figured I would get to it when I got to it. Lucky for me Pulse It was offering a free on-line read so I went for it. Yup, insert HAPPY DANCE! And what exactly is this amazing book about? Well I think I’ll tell you. Because honestly, the description by the publisher, doesn’t really do it justice. I’m apologizing right now for any spoilers. If you don’t want to know, stop reading now.

The Program is the story of Sloane, a very normal 17 year old girl. She has friends and a boyfriend, James, that she is desperately in love with. She goes to school, does her homework and tries to show nothing is bothering her. Because if she for one second shows even an ounce of sadness over some of the losses she has had in her life she will be sent to The Program where all her memories will be erased and she will lose everything that means anything to her.  But as things begin to spiral out of control and Sloane starts to lose everything that matters including herself she learns just how far she’ll go to fight for what she loves and just how powerful love and fate really is in a world where emotions are monitored.

You know, what I think I liked about this book was the two questions it posed without actually saying them out loud. 1) Is there such a thing as fate/meant to be?, and 2) What came first The Program or depression epidemic?. I found both ideas to be really compelling and intriguing and really the back bone of the whole story.  And as much as I liked that idea, I liked question number 2 even more because it got down to the basis of it all. These teenagers were terrified of The Program and because of that they were terrified to feel. Holding in emotion can only lead to one thing and that is a completely melt down. Because they couldn’t feel it was so easy to get down about things. You weren’t allowed to grieve a death or be sad because of a fight because if you were you would be called depressed and immediately flagged. I couldn’t help wondering the whole time I was reading if The Program did exist because of the depression or did the depression epidemic exist because of The Program? Both of those concepts really fascinated me the whole time reading.

I also really liked the main two characters and a few of the secondary ones. Sloane and James were by far my favorites. They carried my interest right from the get go. They had lost so much but had each other and that was enough for them to get by, for a while anyway. But life got in way as it often does and circumstances took over leaving them pretty lost and alone. But even when they are somewhat on different paths their connection is always in the background tethering them together. It’s really quite brilliant and beautiful. And although Realm was a bit of an interloper, to me anyway, I actually didn’t mind him and got his purpose to an extent.  I will freely admit to hating Sloane’s mother. She really irked me. But again I got where she was coming from so I tried to cut her some slack just because the unknown is scary. But I wanted to shake her a few times and tell her to wake up. I wanted to tell her it was okay to let her daughter feel down and it didn’t mean she was going to commit suicide. It wasn’t the feelings that was causing these teens to kill themselves it was fear of The Program. But alas I couldn’t so I cut her some slack.

Basically I loved the whole flipping book, if you didn’t get that from this rambling review. It gave me all the book feels that a great book should and it has stayed with me for a long long long time. Young created a story a love story is what it comes down to, but not the same old love story you are used to. She took the saying “if it’s meant to be it will be” and crafted a witty, intelligent, creative narrative that leaves you hunkering for the next piece of their story. Even the epilogue excited me(which they normally don’t) and had me curious how that final piece of information will be put into play. Bravo Ms. Young. You are officially on my author auto-buy list.

 

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Review: The Book of Broken Hearts – Sarah Ockler

Review: The Book of Broken Hearts – Sarah OcklerThe Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
Published by Simon and Schuster
Published: May 21st 2013
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five-stars

When all signs point to heartbreak, can love still be a rule of the road? A poignant and romantic novel from the author of Bittersweet and Twenty Boy Summer.

Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath—with candles and a contract and everything—to never have anything to do with one.

Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle—which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas?

Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away—no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak…unless her sisters were wrong?

Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

thoughts1 Straight up I’m a major, major, major Sarah Ockler fan. She is one of my auto-buy authors so I truly don’t think she could do any wrong in my eyes. But I will admit when I started The Book of Broken Hearts I was nervous. I was really nervous because I wasn’t sure I liked Jude or how the story jumped in and sort of seemed rushed. But then I kept reading and reading and reading. And I can happily report that I really loved the story. It was definitely a different kind of Ockler read I thought, but it still had that same magic hidden in the pages just like her other 3 amazing books.

The Book of Broken Hearts is the story of Jude, a girl with three older sister who might as well have been an only child thanks to the age gap between them. But Jude remembers one thing from her time with her sisters, she remembers she should stay away from the Vargas brothers at all costs because all they will bring is heart ache and tears. But Jude suddenly finds herself sending her summer days working on a project with/for her dad with Emilio Vargas and can’t bring herself to remember why her sisters hated the Vargas boys to begin with. Between illness and family drama Jude and Emilio form a bond that could either lead to love or the worst broken heart Jude has ever had. Jude has to figure out just what is the right thing to do, listen to her heart and make her own choices or follow the path her older sisters had set for her.

Truthfully my description doesn’t really do the story justice. I just didn’t want to give much away and ruin some of the stuff that is revealed through reading. Because Jude really is a great character and everything that she is going through is very relatable. Even as an only child I could relate to the feeling that you don’t get to make your own decisions and that a life is already mapped out for you. I understood her need to want to abide by her sisters but also to show she isn’t that little girl anymore and she needs to make her own choices whether it leads to a broken heart or a grand love. And Emilio was fighting the same things Jude was. He was labeled as his brothers, as a heartbreaker, as a screw-up. Like Jude he wasn’t able to make his own mistakes without being scrutinized. But unlike Jude he didn’t care. He went after what he wanted and that made me love him completely.

Really Sarah Ockler seems to just get it. She seems to understand people and it comes through in her writing and I am always so grateful for that. Whether my heart is breaking during Twenty Boy Summer, my heartstrings are being tugged during Fixing Delilah, my stomach craving cupcakes and a cute boy in Bittersweet or I’m rooting for a couple that has to fight to be together in The Book of Broken Hearts, Sarah Ockler makes me believe all of it. I personally loved this book and I think you might too if you give it a chance. And like I have said before and will say again, if you have never read and Ockler book, get on that right now!

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twenty  fixing  bitter

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Second Chance Sunday – Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Today’s Second Chance Sunday is brought to you by the wonderful Sarah Ockler and her awesome book, in a slew of many, Bittersweet. I swear this is the book  that started my love affair with cupcakes so I’m warning you all ahead of time. But seriously this book was fantastic and I thought it should be recognized since Sarah’s next fantastic book The Book of Broken Hearts comes out next week(review on the blog on Wednesday).

Second Chance Sunday – Bittersweet by Sarah OcklerBittersweet by Sarah Ockler
Published by Simon and Schuster
Published: January 3rd 2012
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five-stars

Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life... and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last...

thoughts1
A sunshine yellow lemon cupcake with a coconut infused marshmallow frosting.  Filled with a raspberry and blueberry jam and decorated with marzipan figure skates and hockey sticks. Drizzle with silver glitter dust and serve on a plate of awesomeness!

Sarah Ockler has done it again! This book was just beyond amazing!  Seriously I thought I loved Ockler before with her amazing works Fixing Delilah and my favorite Twenty Boy Summer, but I’m head over heels now.

Ockler has a gift for getting down to the depth and emotions of her characters and she did that flawlessly with Hudson. A once high prospect for the figure skating world, Hudson had lost her way and found herself in the kitchen baking amazing cupcakes as a way to forget who she was.  But after a chance run-in, and I mean that literally, with the co-captain of her school’s hockey team, Hudson’s love of the ice finally makes itself known. When presented an opportunity to help the team(and the boy she is crushing on) and get ice time for a competition she is secretly entering Hudson takes in more than she can chew and all hell breaks loose on her life.

Told entirely from Hudson’s point of view the readers are privy to every thought and emotion that Hudson feels leaving us to feel like we are taking the journey with her. You personally feel like you are there for the fights and laughs and hugs and kisses and near kisses.  You can feel the sadness and regret and anger that she has towards her family and herself and the drive she has for baking and skating.  It truly is a touching story of finding out who you are and what you want.

Bravo Ms. Ockler. My only question…when are you opening a cupcake bakery with all those delicious concoctions you teased us with??!! 🙂

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twenty   fixing

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