by Pam Bachorz
I picked up Candor after reading Drought, which was such an amazing and weird read, I knew I had to check out more by that author. It turns out that Candor is very easy to pitch to people - it's basically Stepford Wives, only with teens. I think there's an episode of The Twilight Zone with a similar premise, as well. Oscar Banks lives in a gated community in Florida where families move for the answer to all of their problems. His father has created an ingeniously evil system where subliminal messages play on public speakers, controlling troubled teens impulses.
Oscar is sleazy, corrupt and incredibly difficult to like, especially at first. Having figured out his father's system, he sells the cure, personalized songs that counteract the lobotomizing effects of the subliminal messages to local teens, and helps many of them escape... for a price. Naturally, he'll take large amounts of cash, junk food and other contraband, but what horrified me the most is how he demands sexual favors from zombiefied girls. Gross! Thank goodness Oscar finally starts to turn around. Oscar's father, Campbell Banks, has a creepy obsession with control - the scenes with Oscar and his dad over the breakfast table, as Oscar must carefully pretend to be perfect are absolutely chilling. When rebellious and beautiful Nia moves to town, Oscar finds himself genuinely challenged for the first time.
It's the final third of the story where we really start to peel away the layers of the onion - how and why did Oscar's father come to invent this system and how did he go about founding an entire town devoted to it? By the end, readers are rooting for Oscar to get the heck out of there. I do love a story with lots of stunning reversals and surprises, and there were some really good surprises at the end of the story. I can't say anymore, because I don't want to spoil anything! I've been recommending this to readers who enjoyed Neil Schusterman's Unwind and other guy-centric dystopian fiction.
I borrowed this book from the library.