In the town of Candor, soothing music plays everywhere, and every kid is perfect, well-mannered, and deliriously focused. Of course, that's because the music is layered with subliminal messages that burrow deep into the subconscious (so deep that leaving Candor without an iPod rigged with supportive music leads to fatal withdrawal). Oscar, son of the town's founder, is wise to his father's tricks and runs a black-market counter-message system that helps teens escape Candor's clutches. His carefully constructed model-son shell and subversive malcontent core get shaken when Nia, who's as gorgeous as she is rebellious, moves into town. Oscar's dilemma is clear: keep her in town, where she'll ultimately become like everyone else, or help her escape and lose her altogether. Enforced conformity is obviously a potent metaphor for teenagers and a terrific seed for a dystopian novel, but readers may have to occasionally make the leap from suspending disbelief to abandoning all logic. Still, there is much to ponder here, and many teens will find more than a few scary reflections from the streets of Candor. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.
ForeWord Magazine Reviews
"Never keep secrets from your parents. Trust your parents with everything." In the town of Candor, Florida, secrets and trust-however blind it may be-rule all its residents. After spending time on a yearlong waiting list, families flock from all over the country to move to Candor, the ideal place to raise a family. But the majority of them don't know what they're getting into. The residents turn their trust, and their hard-earned cash, over to Campbell Banks, the town's founder. In return, they receive a beautiful house, a cozy town, and a life free of problems. Even their children begin obeying the rules-every single one. But Mr. Banks didn't count on what Oscar, his teenage son, would think of all this. Overcoming the subliminal messages pumped throughout the town, Oscar sees Candor for what it is-a community of mind control.Oscar successfully frees several young adults from Candor by supplying them with his own homemade messages and guiding them to freedom. But that freedom comes at a price. Oscar risks the possibility of one of his clients exposing him, or worse, his father finding out. Then Oscar meets Nia Silva, the rebel daughter of the newest family to move to Candor. She's different than any of the other girls that live there. She's exciting and daring, and Oscar feels alive in her presence. He has to decide if he'll let the messages take over her mind and risk losing her forever, or if he'll divulge Candor's secrets to her and risk revealing everything he's built for himself.Oscar surprises everyone with the path he chooses. Compelled to save the only woman besides his absentee mother who's ever loved him, Oscar begins a fight that has the potential to change him-and Nia-forever. Candor proves to be a page-turner for any reader who picks it up.Author Pam Bachorz has scripted a fabulous debut novel, earning herself a Junior Library Guild Selection, as well as a Fall '09 Indie Next pick. Although the relationships between characters could use a bit more development, Bachorz develops plot, a Stepford-like setting, and intriguing puppet-like Candor residents that keep the reader's attention. Candor is a story about surviving childhood like you've never read before. (September) © 2009 ForeWord Reviews. All Rights Reserved.
Horn Book Guide Reviews
Subliminal messages embedded in musical broadcasts are brainwashing the teenagers of Candor, Florida, an ominously charming suburban enclave. Only Oscar, the founder's son, knows his father's methods and can provide an antidote for those who will meet his price. This eerie tale will appeal to fans of dystopian sci-fi. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Everyone is on-message in Candor, Fla. (a planned community not unlike Disney's Celebration), and Oscar Banks's father decides that message through mind-controlling music. For teenagers who have the money and the motivation to escape from Candor, Oscar offers his own rebellious subliminal messages. After falling in love with new arrival Nia, Oscar weighs his perfect persona against Nia's survival, watching as she falls victim to Candor's illusion of perfection. Bachorz's premise causes a momentary chill: Given music's ubiquitous presence today, readers can easily wonder if there's a message lurking in every melody. A nicely paced plot keeps the narrative moving and successfully builds tension. However, Oscar's attempts to rescue Nia quickly move from romantic to disturbing and seem to reinforce an unfortunately stereotypical and dated sense of romance: Women must be forcibly wooed by men who know better. Though his obsessive love rings true and the possibility exists that he moves beyond his damaging mindset, the author's hand is all too evident. Despite the unsuccessful romantic element, overall it's a well-reasoned, creepily possible first novel. (Science fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Debut novelist Bachorz delivers a dystopian novel that takes place in the present, giving the genre a fresh twist. In the town of Candor, conformity is law; negative emotions are banished; and residents are fed a steady diet of subliminal Messages—"Respectful space in every place. Avoid physical contact"—that dull any impulse toward creativity, rebellion or even sexual desire. Oscar Banks, the son of Candor's founder, leads a double life. Secretly, he's the town's biggest rebel—he illegally shuttles kids to freedom before the Messages can take hold (for a price)—while on the surface he's "the model Candor boy.... Proof that the Messages work." But when Oscar falls for the new girl, Nia, he's forced to rethink his entire identity. Some of the premise is difficult to swallow, such as that within days, residents of Candor become so addicted to the Messages that even a few hours without them could mean death. But Bachorz needs this high-stakes bit to justify why kids can't simply run away. On the whole, it's a compelling story that quickly becomes a page-turner. Be prepared for a chilling ending. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)[Page 140]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 7 Up—A chilling dystopian novel set in the present. In Candor, FL, all of the teens respect their parents, study religiously, eat nutritiously, obey the rules, are always courteous, and refrain from physical contact. Sound unreal? It is. The citizens are controlled by subliminal messages in music. Those caught disobeying the messages or trying to escape are sent to the Listening Room and have their memories erased. Oscar, teenaged son of the town's founder, is the model Candor boy—except that it's all an act. He has conned everyone into thinking he is perfect while secretly making a huge profit by helping teens escape before they're permanently changed. He has made his own CDs with messages to counteract the official ones. Nothing really touches him until he falls for new girl Nia, a skateboarding graffiti artist with a bad attitude that's sure to get her in trouble. Now, he is faced with the dilemma. Should he help her escape and lose her forever or risk being caught trying to stop her from being turned into a Stepford Wife-like clone if she stays? Readers may be a bit disconcerted by Oscar at first because he is not very likable and his desire for Nia borders on creepily obsessive at times. The rationale for the creation of Candor also seems a bit far-fetched. Still, debut author Bachorz has written a timely and compulsively readable page-turner that has a powerfully affective ending.—Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton[Page 100]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews
Oscar Banks is the son of the developer of Candor, a small, tight-knit utopian community. But rather than espousing the old cliché that children should be seen and not heard, Oscar's father adheres to the Stepford-ish adage that children should be brainwashed into acting perfectly. Oscar struggles against the secret messages—"Respectful space in every place" and "Studying is your top priority"—that his father puts out over loudspeakers to get the locals to behave, and rebels by slipping his own subliminal messages to the new arrivals. Trouble arrives in the form of an artistic, free spirit Nia, who sets Oscar's hormones raging and might just poke holes in his pretense of being the model son. This novel starts strong, and Nia and Oscar's romance hits all the right notes. A community brainwashing its young adults seems ripe for young adult literature, an instant classic. But the plot stumbles under its own complexity, as the lines become less clear over whether Oscar is rebelling against his father or if he is really his biggest victim. If ambiguity is Bachorz's intention, she is brilliant. The story gets bogged down with uncertainty, taking away the power of the biggest moments, when Oscar meets a brainwashed Nia and the truth ultimately comes out about his activities. These conflicts should leave the readers breathless, but they fail to land with any real impact. The book is clever, but with stronger plotting, it could have been brilliant.—Matthew Weaver. 3Q 4P M J S Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.