Sunday, June 26, 2011


AUTHOR: Pam Bachorz
ISBN: 9781606841358
GENRE: Dystopian romance 
OVERALL RATING: Highly recommended

RECOMMENDED FOR: Middle and high school boys and girls; short length and fast-paced plot make it a great choice for reluctant reader

Check out the Candor, FL website!

SUMMARY: In the upscale community of Candor, Florida, children and teenagers always study hard, eat nutritious meals, are in bed by 11, and do what they are told. Teenage rebellion has been virtually eradicated, and Oscar Banks, teen son of the community founder, knows why. Affluent parents of troubled teens who meet stringent income requirements bring their families to Candor so their behavior can be strictly controlled through constant use of subliminal messages.

WHAT I LIKED: When I showed the book trailer to my students a few months ago, they really went wild for this book. I had to order more copies because I had such a long hold list. They excitedly told me how much I just HAVE to read this book. One 8th grader told me that even though she "hates reading," she loved this book. I put the book on hold for myself so I could actually get a copy to read, but when my name came up, I felt bad about taking it from excited readers and ended up giving it to the next person on the list. I only got it now because school is out for the summer.

Lots of action will appeal to reluctant readers especially. The orange eye on the paperback cover and one orange house on the hardcover copies tips readers off that color is important. Indeed it is; everything from orange spray paint to orange juice to an abandoned orange building represents control versus rebellion. Yet another example of YA lit that practically uses color as a character. Bachorz makes this use of color obvious enough for many teen readers to notice it on their own, without a teacher pointing it out. I just love that!

The Candor, FL website (linked above) will be a cool way to teach website validation to my middle schoolers. Would you want to live here, kids? Are you sure?

And, ooh, the ending! Simply chilling. Much of the book's action is patient and ranges from slow- to medium-paced. The last 25 pages, however, are heart-pounding and the twists in the last chapter, reminiscent of Orwell's 1984, made me go from liking this book to loving it.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The concept of an entire town tightly controlled by subliminal messages is pretty far-fetched, and at times, I thought it was just too "out there." In parts, Candor reminded me too much of that horrible movie, The Stepford Wives (sorry, never read the book).

The "I love you's" come too quickly. Oscar had only known Nia a few days when they first said it, and he was keeping so many secrets from her at that time. The attraction between the two is clear and believable, but I wish the "I love you's" came later in the story.

While he does redeem himself toward the end, for much of the book, Oscar comes off as a jerk. It's great that he is rebellious and attempts to save as many kids as he can, but he only helps when there is something in it for himself (e.g., large sums of money or the illustrious Nia's affections). He uses poor Sherman constantly and has no qualms about using the messages (and his friendship) to control Sherman. Why does he constantly say that Sherman deserves it? Does Sherman really do anything so terrible, or is Oscar just saying that to justify his own actions? Considering his treatment of Sherman, how is Oscar any better than his father? (The English teacher in me says that would be a great Socratic seminar for a class!)

  • Language: mild; almost nothing
  • Sexuality: mild; a few chaste kisses; a few sexual references about how much Oscar appreciates Nia's body
  • Violence: mild; some police brutality
  • Drugs/Alcohol: mild-moderate; teen drinking
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have multiple copies. It's hugely popular and always checked out or on hold. It's going on next year's Lone Star Plus list for my school.

READALIKES: The Compound (Bodeen)

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