Offering great appeal to reflective romantics, this jarring thriller looks at the cost of societal complacency while lauding...

THE TREATMENT

In this wrenching sequel to The Program (2013), a few desperate teens race to save what’s left of their memories and salvage the tatters of their lives.

After being discharged from The Program, a facility developed to stop the teen-suicide epidemic by removing teens’ memories, Sloane and James have reignited the passion of their former love. The Program’s cure, however, isn’t foolproof, and memories can “crash back,” causing brain bleeds and insanity. Moreover, The Program has instituted procedural lobotomies and, with the government’s backing, is beginning to make teen “behavior modification” mandatory. Sloane and James join a group of rebels intent on destroying The Program, and Sloane holds the one last pill that returns memories. In constant pursuit of the rebels, The Program wants to destroy the pill, but the doctor behind The Program, having seen the error of his ways, seems to want to reproduce it. The story is unrelentingly dramatic: “I put the blade to my neck and began to saw,” recounts Sloane’s friend Realm, describing his anguish. Compelling questions left dangling from the first book as to the origins of the epidemic, whether “behavioral contagion” and/or media hype, are explored.

Offering great appeal to reflective romantics, this jarring thriller looks at the cost of societal complacency while lauding heroism and remembrance. (Dystopian romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4583-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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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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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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