Book Review: Candor by Pam Bachorz
Oscar Banks lives in the pristine town of Candor. Son of the mayor, he is good-looking, smart and popular. And he knows something he shouldn’t — he knows about the brainwashing Messages embedded in the music that plays all over town.
Oscar has found a way to burn counter-Messages that keep him real. Up to now, it’s all worked perfectly. There’s just one problem: Nia Silva, the newest Candor arrival. What will Oscar risk to keep the Nia he loves rather than watch her become a Candor automaton?’
This was certainly a creepy little book. Out of all the dystopians I’ve read recently, I think Candor was one of the most terrifying — reading it there was the underlying fear that this could actually happen, or already be happening, somewhere. Candor has cleverly tapped into one of the greatest fears of society — the loss of free will.
When the enemy is inside your own head secretly controlling you — how do you fight back? I had to wonder just what kind of parents would move to a town like Candor just to have their difficult teenagers brainwashed into perfect little robots. Because the families that live in Candor aren’t there by accident. They sign up for the chance to have a (seemingly) perfect life. What they don’t know of course, is that there is no leaving Candor.
Would people really do that in real life? It never seems to occur to them that it’s not just their teenagers and children who are controlled, but them as well. We never learn all the Messages that the Mayor puts into the music — but there are a few disturbing moments when even Oscar has no idea whether what he is saying are his own words, or his fathers.
Candor opens up a lot of interesting questions but sadly, never takes the time to properly explore them. How exactly do the Messages work? Why are they addictive? Did no one ever say ‘no’ when they found out the real price of living in Candor? Oscar helps certain kids escape, for a price of course, but why do none of them tell anyone what is going on? Why, when she discovered what her husband was doing, did Oscar’s mother just leave without him?
I wanted far more back story and information on Oscar’s father. What drives him? Does he feel guilt or remorse? Clearly the power and the control is seductive, but loosing a child, though terrible, seems too weak a reason to cause him to do what he does, and the extremes he takes it to. I wanted to know more about the people living in Candor — what were their stories? Why did they choose this live? Have they ever fought the Messages? They were just shadows in the background and I felt Candor would have been a richer novel had we gotten to know some of these people.
Oscar had the potential to be a very complex character — he’s certainly no hero. So why does he never leave? And just how different is he, in the end, from his father?
Characterization is definitely where Candor falls down. The romance between Nia and Oscar just wasn’t believable which refutes Oscar’s actions in the book. Overall, Candor was a short, but interesting (if at times uncomfortable), read. Definitely worth checking out from the library. The narration is repetitive and a little too sparse in places, and sadly, Candor never takes the time to tackle the really difficult questions. But, there were some truly chilling moments and the ending was pretty near perfect. Heartbreaking, sinister and powerful. I don’t know if this will become a series — I hope not as I rather like where we ended up.