This one isn’t perfect but so close!
I like both covers a lot. Edgy and artistic without being too risque.
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.
Ever read a book and when you begin it you cringe thinking you already know how disappointing it will be? Well, I will say that’s how I felt when I opened Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan — it was my first book by him and well, the topic of 9/11 was one that I just don’t think can be done well just yet. Maybe never. But I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
Love is the Higher Law takes its name from one of my all time favorite songs, “One,” by U2. The story, told from three alternating perspectives, begins on the morning of 9/11 in New York City. Each of the three main characters — Claire, Jasper, and Peter — takes turns telling where they were and what was going on. I immediately connected with Claire because she was only a year older than I was when 9/11 happened. Although our moments in time were quite different, I just felt a connection with her that really helped me relate to the story.
This isn’t a simple story of the day of 9/11. Levithan does a really great job of connecting the characters to one another because as much as this is a story of alternating perspectives, it’s ultimately the story of one experience and one “being” — how we ALL relate to one another, and how we all related to one another in the moments of 9/11. The story follows the characters in the days following 9/11, as well as six months later and one year later.
Love is the Higher Law is a short book, but it’s mighty powerful. People like me who were aware of what was going on that day and in the days and months following can really connect, but it’s what Levithan writes in his author’s note that makes this book so powerful. He makes note that today’s teenagers were so young when 9/11 happened and just don’t have the stories to connect to. They’ve forever been in a post-9/11 world, and it’s our duty to share our stories so they don’t disappear. As much as we’re all hesitant sometimes to reflect or write about such a historic and defining moment, it’s something we should and have to do to ensure others “get” it.
I think what really struck me the most in this book was the use of U2 as a major thematic element. I think teens, who already have such intimate relationships with music, will connect with the idea that a band or an album can be a powerful instrument of memory and of humanity. As one of those people who absolutely fell in love with All That You Can’t Leave Behind, I really found that Peter’s connection with it is perhaps exactly why I find that to be such a strong album. This kind of defines the book and the historical importance of the entire moment, and it does so in a way that I think anyone can feel and understand. I thought it was an innovative way to develop a theme and plot without making it inaccessible to non-U2 fans or making it a story about one band. It’s much more, but this layer will really click with some readers without leaving others in the dark.
While I read this book quickly, it’s one that I know will stick around. I’d recommend this book to just about anyone because I think it will resonate with all readers. I applaud Levithan for writing it, and I can only hope other authors follow. And the alternating perspectives? Spot on. That’s a rarity.
Let me be fair in saying I had one HUGE criticism, and that would be the last few pages of the book. What made this title great was how apolitical it was. But in the end, Levithan made his political beliefs a little too clear. Moreover, for a book focused on 9/11 as an event and moment, making blatant political criticisms didn’t sit well and, I think, diverged from his ultimate goals. I found it out of place in the book and out of character. I wish he’d left this out — this is one of those issues I feared most in beginning any book on this topic.
Go read this one, please. As much as I’ve read about this book being award-worthy, I’m mixed on that. I feel giving it attention via an award might make teens a bit resistant to reading it (be honest — you slap a book with an award and sometimes that’s the last time it’ll be read), but I feel it also might fall behind other titles because it hasn’t had enough spotlight on it yet. Not to mention the professional journals didn’t give this one a good review, which is a bit short sighted. I just don’t think you can compare this title to Levithan’s others — it was written with an entirely different purpose and goal, and he hits a home run with that intention. Read it for the story and be pleased enough to pick up other books by this author. Don’t read it to compare it to his other books.
This is the dedication for my new favorite cookbook, Fat by Jennifer McLagan. I’m not alone in loving this work; the James Beard Foundation gave the coveted “Cookbook of the Year” award to this title. More than a simple collection of recipes, McLagan included extensive food histories, nutritional information, world-wide food folklore, and step-by-step instruction on everything involving fat.
The book is divided into four different sections – butter (“Worth it”), pork fat (“The King”), poultry fat (“Versatile and good for you”), and beef and lamb fats (“Overlooked but tasty”). Each section has a 10 page spread giving an overview of that types of fat included within the chapter. For example, the beef and lamb fats chapter touches on suet, bone marrow, marbling, tallow, and dripping. An extensive introduction, bibliography, and index round out the structure of the book.
McLagan truly believes that one of the problems with the modern diet is its fear of fat. She starts developing this thesis in her dedication, expands on the sentiment within the introduction, and continues to discuss specifics within the beginning pages of each chapter. “Fat, we reasoned, was why we packed on the pounds and got ill, so we banned animal fat from our lives” (page 2). She makes a good point – as a whole, North Americans are still obese, unhealthy, obsessed with exercise… and eating less animal fat than ever before. The animal fat sources that she examines are rich in monounsaturated fats – different beasts than the hydrogenated and polyunsaturated fats found in an average American diet. McLagan not only looks at the nutritional benefits of eating more fat, she also examines the reasons why it’s so pleasureful. She includes many interesting “fat” quotes and phrases in the margins of the pages, reminding us how fat wasn’t always such a taboo thing to be called. I loved the variation of sources – Shakespeare sits next to German folklore next to Dorothy Hartley.
McLagan highlights many fascinating history tidbits about fat. Did you know that the Indian Mutiny of 1857 was, in part, due to a misunderstanding between Indian sepoys and the East India Company over the loading procedures of the Enfield rifle? The design required the sepoys to bite off the casing before pouring out the gunpowder, but the casings were said to be greased with lard (pork fat) or tallow (beef fat), distasteful to both Muslim and Hindi soldiers. Rebellion ensues, and the British government has to take over control of the subcontinent. Other interesting anecdotes include the origins of the name “Fat Man” for the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan, history of Bolladagur day in Iceland, and discussing the chemistry of the soap lady at the Mütter Museum.
But this is more than just a book that preaches at us – at its core, Fat is a cookbook. With its gorgeous photography, I wanted to eat everything on the pages, even if it was just a picture of lardo and persimmons. The endpapers are really a magnified picture of caul fat, delicately lacing the contents of the book. McLagan prefaces every recipe with great instructions and stories. And there are a lot of decadent recipes in here – Fat Fat-Cooked Fries, Sauteed Foie Gras with Gingered Vanilla Quince, Bone Marrow Crostini, Prosciutto-Wrapped Halibut with Sage Butter, and a ridiculously mouth-watering Salted Caramel Sauce. Cooking with real fat sources doesn’t seem easy; many recipes require a great deal of preparation work, but McLagan assures us that the payoff is worth the effort.
Of course, there’s a waiting list a mile long for this book at the library, so I had to give up my copy too soon, well before I was able to cook any of the recipes for myself. But I’ve not so subtly hinted about my love for this book to my friends, plus I have a birthday coming up… One can only hope. I promise there will be a roast goose for any generous gift-givers in the future, though.