For lovers of dystopian romance, this gripping tale is a tormented look at identity and a dark trip down Lost-Memory Lane.

THE PROGRAM

As a teen-suicide epidemic sweeps the nation, Sloane and her friends struggle with depression from which the only release is death or The Program.

Every day the teens pretend that they’re not “infected” in order to avoid being seized by The Program. This government-sanctioned treatment returns high schoolers to the community after stripping them of their memories and making them vacant versions of their former selves. With raw emotion, 17-year-old Sloane relates the story in three parts. In the first, Sloane and her boyfriend, James, cling to their intense love while their friends commit suicide or are taken away. There’s nowhere to hide as Sloane and James try and fail to keep themselves from The Program. The stomach-churning second part follows Sloane in treatment, where her memories are plucked and her body violated, and her only friend is playing both sides. Finally, Sloane is re-introduced to her school and family. She retains one key memory, which leads her back to fear, pain and love. How this epidemic began and whether The Program is a sinister conspiracy is left unanswered, but despite weak worldbuilding and a bleak plot, Sloane’s quest for survival and individuality is a tribute to the tenacity of the essential self.

For lovers of dystopian romance, this gripping tale is a tormented look at identity and a dark trip down Lost-Memory Lane. (Dystopian romance. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4580-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning.

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SCYTHE

From the Arc of a Scythe series , Vol. 1

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.

On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes’ journal entries accompany Rowan’s and Citra’s dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman’s dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions.

A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Nov. 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7242-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A powerful tale of found family and first love.

SOME MISTAKES WERE MADE

After a year away, Ellis returns home to confront her past.

Graduating from high school far from everything familiar was not part of Ellis Truman’s original plans, but she nevertheless ended up spending her senior year with her aunt in California. In Indiana, Ellis practically grew up with the Albrey family and their three tightknit sons, Dixon, Tucker, and Easton. Now, Tucker wants her to return home for matriarch Sandry Albrey’s 50th birthday celebration on the Fourth of July—but Ellis is dreading seeing Easton, as they haven’t talked since she left. Chapters alternate between past and present, and much of the story unravels slowly: How did she come to live with the Albreys? What caused Ellis to then end up in San Diego? What happened in her relationship with Easton? Patient readers will find the heartfelt tension pays off. With her father in and out of jail and an absent mother, socio-economic differences separating Ellis from the middle-class Albreys don’t go unnoticed, and Ellis’ down-to-earth journey shows how she unpacks her feelings about her relationship with her parents. The slow-build romance is swoonworthy, and young adult fans of Colleen Hoover seeking emotional devastation and unforgettable characters will find much to enjoy here. Characters read as White.

A powerful tale of found family and first love. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-308853-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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