Series: The Program #0.5
Published by Simon Pulse on April 21st, 2015
Genres: contemporary, young adult
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In a world before The Program…
Quinlan McKee is a closer. Since the age of seven, Quinn has held the responsibility of providing closure to grieving families with a special skill—she can “become” anyone.
Recommended by grief counselors, Quinn is hired by families to take on the short-term role of a deceased loved one between the ages of fifteen and twenty. She’s not an exact copy, of course, but she wears their clothes and changes her hair, studies them through pictures and videos, and soon, Quinn can act like them, smell like them, and be them for all intents and purposes. But to do her job successfully, she can’t get attached.
Now seventeen, Quinn is deft at recreating herself, sometimes confusing her own past with those of the people she’s portrayed. When she’s given her longest assignment, playing the role of Catalina Barnes, Quinn begins to bond with the deceased girl’s boyfriend. But that’s only the beginning of the complications, especially when Quinn finds out the truth about Catalina’s death. And the epidemic it could start.
I keep wanting to love all the books in this series/world, but unfortunately, I don’t think that love for The Program is going to cross the gap to the other books. The Remedy was just okay, pulled up from a 2 because of a great ending. But honestly? I’m just feeling meh about the whole thing and I’m not sure where to go from here.
The one thing I consistently enjoyed about this book was Quinn, our main character, who is a “Closer.” Closers are people who stand in for deceased family members for a few days after their death to help those who survived them find closure. She adapts their personalities, names, even their appearances. She takes on their voice, their mannerisms. She lives their lives for a couple days while providing counsel to the family and helping them heal. What struck me the most about her is her empathy. She feels things so fiercely; she takes on all the grief and guilt and sadness of those around her. Quinn becomes a vessel for all their emotions, and constantly stripping herself down and becoming these other people, living other lives, is starting to take its toll on her. She’s losing herself, confusing her memories with her previous clients’. But no matter the pain and hardship she was going through, she was always acting with others’ interests at heart. I loved seeing a character so dedicated to helping other people without it feeling saccharine or fake. Quinn truly was selfless, even if selfishness did sometimes take over.
I think Suzanne Young has really tapped into what it feels like to be mentally ill. I’ve read quite a number of books dealing with mental illness, but few reach this sort of authenticity that Young has in her writing. In The Program it was depression and paranoia. Here, in The Remedy it is depersonalization and derealization. These symptoms aren’t talked about often at all, especially in young adult literature, and it was refreshing to see them handled here, and handles to carefully at that. This is one of my favorite aspects about this series/world, even if I don’t always love the books as a whole.
Sadly, though, the first two thirds of this book were boring. The novelty of the premise quickly wore off and I felt that everything got very repetitive very quickly. While I did find the story itself to be interesting, I wish there had been more action, more surprising plot twists, just more throughout the first two hundred pages. There were little hints here and there that something bigger was afoot, but having read The Program already, and knowing what’s happening, meant that I wasn’t as eager to turn the page as I could have been. However, things really start to take off after that page 215 mark. All of Quinn’s bad choices are starting to weigh down on her, the carefully crafted house of lies is starting to crumble at the foundation. The side characters are noticing those cracks, and Quinn is getting one step closer to knowing the truth.
When the truth of everything finally comes out, it’s impossible to stop turning the pages. Now, it’s unclear who you can trust. Can you even trust Quinn’s versions of events? These plot twists weren’t totally surprising if you know what happens in The Program and The Treatment but Quinn’s character and how she handles things – you become attached and you want to see what’s going to happen to her next. Again, we’re treated to Suzanne Young’s deliciously creepy epilogues that leave you begging for the next book in the series. However, I am a little hesitant, only because I know how much I disliked the change in pace and tone of The Treatment and I really don’t want that to happen with whatever sequels may come.
The final thing that bothered me with this book was the ship. Where Sloane and James are one of my favorite YA couples, their love and devotion just pouring off the page, with flirting and banter and sexuals all over the place, I just could not feel the love for Quinn and Deacon. Deacon is one of those guys who is hot and cold all the time, pulling Quinn closer, just to shut her out again. He does this over and over, and we’re supposed to believe he’s tortured because of life as a Closer, but honestly? It was just obnoxious. There’s no clear explanation for how he treats Quinn, and I hated that she let him do it to her multiple times. I can get behind the chemistry of two characters who want each other but are separated by outside circumstance (like, they work together and it’d be inappropriate or something) but this just felt like angst and drama for the sake of angst and drama. Their relationship does take an interesting turn toward the end of the book though that leaves me curious about what’s to come next for them. Those damn epilogues.
Bottom line, if you enjoyed the first two books released in this series, you’ll most likely enjoy this one too. It wasn’t perfect, but there was enough tension in the plot to keep me going, and Quinn is a favorite character of mine, someone who sticks out as different from the pack, but not in a special-snowflake kind of way. If you haven’t read The Program yet, but plan to, I’d start with these books first. There aren’t any huge spoilers in the The Program or The Treatment but I do think that not knowing at all what is going on would help build the tension.