Teen Book Review: "Candor"
We’re starting to approach the dog days of summer, which means that it’s going to get hotter and hotter. But if you really want to turn up the heat, you should see what’s happening in the Florida swamp in the novel Candor by Pam Bachorz. In this book, Nia and Oscar are caught in a real scorcher, and if they fail, they’ll be burned up in more ways than one.
Deep in the Florida swamp, you’ll find the place of your dreams … and your nightmares. Candor was created by Oscar Banks’ father as a model community. Here the kids do all their chores, study hard and are model citizens. But what no one but Oscar knows is that this idyll is because of the Messages, subliminal prompts in the incessant music around Candor that people have no choice but to obey. Oscar found out about his father’s methods early on, and by pirating his dad's programs and using his own conditioning, Oscar keeps his own brain and bad side intact while acting like Campbell Banks’ perfect son to everyone else. For a hefty fee, he helps other kids escape Candor and the brainwashing it entails.
But that was before Nia Silva entered his life. She’s a bad girl who Oscar is desperately in love with, but that comes with its own risks. She already knows too much, and he should make sure she escapes. But he desperately wants her to stay and stay the same, which carries great risk. If he’s found out, he’ll be taken to the Listening Room, his brain pumped so full of Messages that he’ll be a walking lunatic. But what’s a boy in love to do?
This book is a disturbing piece of science fiction. Other than the pervasive power of the Messages, this book could be a version of real life that could happen anywhere. As the outside observer who works the system, Oscar’s comments on how Candor is run are chilling. He tells stories about the Listening Room and what happens if you leave Candor without talking Message-filled music (you don’t want to know) in such a matter-of-fact tone that it emphasizes the true horror of the situation.
However, Oscar himself is not a reliable narrator. Living in this world has turned him into the cruel person he needs to be in order to survive. He has no problem with making sure someone who crosses him gets sent to the Listening Room, and he thinks about most people only in terms of what they can provide to him. Part of this comes from his upbringing with an uncaring father who only sees him as a show piece for Candor, but it also comes from the tragedies of his past.
It’s only after he spends time with Nia and loses her (in more ways than one) that he begins to see what a loving relationship is really like and starts to feel guilty about his actions and their consequences, which creates the action and drama that lead to a shocking ending. This book will provide some thought-provoking discussion among everyone who reads it, and is definitely worth a read.
Candor is recommended for mid- to late-teen readers. Check it and other titles by Pam Bachorz out at Northeast Library and other branches of the DC Public Library today!
--By Brandon Digwood