I took a class in college that spent some time studying the infamous Pullman community, and during the course, we got the opportunity to go down to Pullman and see what remains. I find the idea of the utopian community endlessly fascinating and terrifying, which is precisely why Candor by Pam Bachorz struck me as something I definitely wanted to get my hands on. Thanks to her and the wonderful folks at Egmont, I scored a copy of this book that will be released next week.
Candor, Florida is home to perfection — families wait for years to get into the community that breeds stellar students, happiness, safety, and unparalleled community. Every kid goes to a good college and every kid is well behaved. Why wouldn’t anyone want to be a part of this?
The thing is, they’re being brainwashed by the founder, Campbell Banks. He’s hidden his messages in everything, and everyone is reprogrammed to follow his regiment and ideals. Except, as it seems, his son Oscar.
Even though everyone in Candor things Oscar is the model child, he’s actually got them fooled. For a good price, Oscar will share with other teens how to escape Candor and regain control of their own lives and their own minds.
That is, until Nia arrives and challenges his every power.
As Oscar falls more into obsession with her — because calling it love or romance wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate — his knowledge and his image unravel, as does his own power over the citizens of Candor.
Candor both was and was not what I expected. I really enjoyed the story and the ideas here because they were based on a real premise, but they were twisted in a way to make it unbelievable enough for me as a reader. I found the character development a bit sparse, but when I came to the end of the book, I found this was much to the benefit of the story itself. What I loved was that throughout the entirety of the book, I felt like my own mind was being brainwashed, along with Oscar. As a reader, you have no idea whether or not to believe Oscar. Ultimately, the book becomes a large question about who really has the power in Candor.
Unlike a lot of titles I’ve read lately, Candor was a bit of a slower read for me. Perhaps because I did have to shift my expectations of the book, I kept needing to put it down, digest, then pick it up again. I don’t think, though, teens will be doing this — without the background and paranoia that older readers may bring to the book, teens will devour this and, I think, really come to think about big issues such as privacy, control, and power. What seems like a relatively unrealistic tale becomes more and more chilling because of these layers and themes.
Candor will be a great book to discuss in a book group or in a classroom because of these issues. I am really looking forward to hearing what the teens reading it have to think about it because their perspective is entirely different from my own and, I believe, will breathe some really unique ideas into it. And maybe they’ll have a good idea of who’s really being controlled: the reader, Oscar, or the citizens of Candor. As readers we know Bachorz was inspired to write this after living in Disney’s town, Celebration, Florida. I think this is a title that would go perfectly in a discussion about planned communities, utopias, or even Pullman. While fictional, I think the key issues in the book are going to be relatable on many levels.
Although one of the key plot points that is played up in the jacket blurb is the relationship between Oscar and Nia, I don’t think this is central. In fact, I think that Nia is much more symbolic of many things, including Oscar himself. The relationship/obsession needed to be there to make this clearer for the reader, but the romance itself is merely illusion and illustration. I think Bachorz made a very smart decision in making this more symbol than central.
As an added bonus, Bachorz’s book has a website, as well, right here. After poking around on the site and watching some of the testimonials, I can only imagine it won’t be too long before someone wants to make this one into a full length film. I love the testimonials on the site, and I believe that this is a site a reader should check out before reading the book. It sets a great tone, and it really contributes to the issues of control and power.
Candor will be available September 22. I’ll be eager to talk with other readers about this title because, well, there’s just so much here to discuss. This book is no silo.