genre: young adult
For sale: one gorgeous house in the idyllic town of Candor. Let our illustrious town founder, Campbell Banks, give you a tour of our beloved city and see for yourself that while your home will make you happy - the clean and cheerful Candor itself will make you even happier.
Do you know why it will make you happy? Do you know why there are no homeless, no drug addicts, no overweight people in Candor? Oscar Banks, the son of the town founder, does - and it's a secret that he has figured out how to manipulate. The secret? Messages. Messages that "help" your brain to make good choices: you'll always be courteous, always crave healthy food, always keep the rules. All that nasty decision making will be removed from your daily living. Oscar knows that there is more to life - but he has to keep up appearances, right? His dad can't KNOW that he can withstand the messages, otherwise he'll make sure that Oscar's defenses are wiped away and he'll never be the self that he knows again.
When Nia moves into town, though, all of a sudden he wants more than ever to not be alone in his ability to withstand the messages and suddenly doing the "right" thing doesn't seem quite as important. And Oscar's gradual ability to care for someone other than himself sets into action a chain of events that even I couldn't see the end result of.
On the whole, I really enjoyed Candor and was engaged in the story. The whole idea of "subliminal messages" is fascinating to me and I like how she just took the concept to the nth degree to see what might happen if we started depending on them to shape our behavior. On the other hand, Oscar is not a particularly likable character. Sometimes his attitude and selfishness was grating to me and sometimes his dialogue felt...scripted. I am thinking now, though, that maybe that was part of the point - all he ever listened to was people spouting the messages and what I did like was that his behavior was consistent. He wasn't a superhero, he wasn't an angel, he was just a boy - a boy who was missing a lot of things that he needed and as soon as he started feeling like there was someone in the world that cared about him, he started to see himself differently. If you are a fan of science fiction and dystopian stories, this is definitely one to put on your list.
book 5 of 25 for the 2010 Young Adult Challenge