Candor is a book that is similar to The Stepford Wives. Instead of telling what happens on the outside of the town, it delves deep into the inner workings of a town based on control. Part of what makes Ira Levine’s Stepford Wives so horrifying is that you never really know what is happening to the women of Stepford, you just know that they are changing. Candor by Pam Bachorz uses the exact opposite approach. From the beginning Oscar tells you all the lies and deception that comprise the city of Candor.
People, very rich people, sign up to live in a town where they are covertly fed messages 24/7. The concept was created by Oscar’s father. He is a very meticulous and controlling man. He uses the messages to create the kind of life he wants for himself. He thinks that Oscar is oblivious to it all and just going along with the ride. But Oscar is trying to subvert his father every step of the way. Part of the effectiveness of his willing to appear that he is under the influence of the messages.
“I’m the model Candor boy—a son to brag about. Proof that the Messages work. That’s what everyone thinks. Even my dad.”
There is a lot to love about this book. The concept is verging on genius, but it is lacking some of the details that would make this a truly functioning world. Oscar is a great character but the reader can feel him giving into the messages more than we would like to, and that is part of the beauty of the storytelling as well. We feel the frustration between ourselves and the world between the choices Oscar makes and doesn’t make.
When rebel trouble maker Nia moves to Candor there is a chance for a great dynamic between her and Oscar, but the narrative quickly spirals into some mock teen soap opera with overwrought emotions flung all over the place. True, overwrought emotions are normal for teens, but when there is an easy solution to prevent a problem it annoys me when an author doesn’t patch over it with more back story and world building.
The middle emotional roller coaster felt so contrived that I had a hard time investing into the later half of the book even though it still had some nice elements in it. I was there with the characters, buying what they were selling, but then the author just kicked me right out onto the curb. I felt a little betrayed by the character’s stupidity and I didn’t want to care about them anymore.
Would I recommend this book? Probably, but also tentatively.
Is this a great example of dystopia? Not exactly.
Is this a unique example of dystopia? Yes. This story is very different from ones that I have read before yet connects well with some of the defining themes of dystopia of control and deception. I would have liked to see more depth in the world building and more strength in the characters and a major conflict that makes more sense.