Candor was my perfect airplane book; a quick read, immediately engrossing, and a terrific alternate reality.
Because I read a tremendous number of book blogs, I sometimes request a new book that has gotten a lot of buzz and by the time it finally arrives at the library, I have completely forgotten what it's about or who recommended it in the first place. Candor was one of those books. When I pulled it out of my backpack on the plane flight on Sunday afternoon, I had no idea what the basic gist of the plot was.
Oscar Banks' father started a new private community in Florida a few years earlier, the town of Candor. It was advertised as the perfect family town, where things are safe, where people know their neighbors, where your troubled teen will find a wholesome life, etc. It quickly took off and now the waiting list to get a house in Candor is over two years.
The reason Candor is so popular is because of the subliminal messages that Oscar's dad has playing constantly. They say things like "The great are never late" or "Always obey your parents" or (my personal favorite), "Only husbands and wives kiss." When opportunities to disobey those rules come up, those messages pound at your subconscious making it extremely hard to resist doing what the messages want you to do.
They are extremely effective - most teens have their body piercings out, their grades up, and their rebellion curbed within just a few weeks, falling in to become a model citizen.
Oscar, who saw his father quietly making all these plans, was on to it quickly and started making his own recordings to combat the messages his father is playing. Not content with that, Oscar sees a money making scheme and starts helping rich kids escape before they are brainwashed into submission as well.
Oscar has a girlfriend, a former teen beauty queen who was so insanely competitive that someone competing against her committed suicide and blamed her for driving her to it. Oscar is always amused to watch her polite, message-induced side compete with her own rather horrible personality. The message-induced side always wins out, but that inner self is fighting hard.
And then Nia arrives in town. She's stronger than most of the kids that move there and it takes a long time for the messages to start sinking in. Oscar is conflicted about whether to help her escape or to keep her there near him as he begins to develop feelings for her.
There are so many clever and creepy parts of this book; I couldn't read fast enough and I just couldn't see where this was going to end. I loved it. It reminded me to some extent of The Giver or The Hunger Games, where the world is so controlled, but of course this takes place in the present and in the United States.