Candor by Pam Bachorz

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Candor by Pam Bachorz

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: A new take on the old there must be something in the water adage, welcome to Candor where subliminal messages in music help you be a better person. A thrilling and imaginative debut novel.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: August 2010
Publisher: Egmont Books ltd
ISBN: 978-1405250276

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The children of Candor know how to behave and the children of Candor stick to those rules:

The great are never late.
Healthy breakfasts make for smart minds.
Academics are the key to success.
Always be courteous.

In Candor, everyone is happy. There is no crime. There are no tantrums. There is just respect and cooperation. It is a harmonious place that people from the outside desperately want to relocate to.

Oscar Banks is a superior person. As the son of the town's mayor, and a good-looking, smart and popular teenager to boot, he is the one everyone wants to be like. But Oscar has a secret. He knows about the Messages piped through the town which subtly influence the behaviour of its residents. What's more, he knows how to manipulate them. His good boy persona is just a front, and one he works hard to maintain so no one suspects what is going on in the background.

Nia is new in town. She looks and behaves nothing like the other kids in school. She dresses in black, not muted pastels. She rides a skateboard instead of driving a golf cart, she likes drawing even though everyone knows Art is useless. Oscar knows he can save her but only through giving her Messages of his own to counteract the community ones. Is controlling the girl you like and making her like you in the process a step too far, even for Candor?

Oscar narrates life in Candor with a wonderful candour. This is a teen book at heart but such a juicy psychological thriller than I was captivated as well. Set in Florida, this book is remarkably generic in its descriptions – it's not overly American in setting or language and could quite easily be set over here, but then really Candor is somewhere else entirely.

This is the sort of story you can read on two levels – taking it at face value and accepting it as a great piece of imaginative sci fi, or peeling back the layers and thinking about the messages underneath, about the dangers of control and conformity. I flew through it even though it's approaching 300 pages because every page offered up a new little titbit adding a piece to the picture of life in this very unusual town.

The book doesn't answer all the questions that might crop up in your mind, but I think that's fitting – even with this, by the time you finish you'll still know a lot more about what's going on than most of the town's residents. I was left wanting more, but accepting that some things would be left to my imagination. This is fine though, considering the ending, where you can choose, depending on your mood, what you think, or hope, would happen next.

A lot of teen novels with female heroines fail to appeal to boys, but this, like Thirteen Reasons Why is a great example of how male leads can tell stories that captivate readers of both sexes. It's 1984 or Brave New World but written for the iPod generation, and I truly recommend it.

Thanks go to the publishers for sending us this book.

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