*September 22nd, 2009 EgmontUSA
But then Nia Silva moves to town, and Oscar thinks she's perfect exactly the way she is. Soon he must make a choice: let Nia be lost to the brainwashing, or help her stay special and risk himself in the process.
Nowadays, we want YA sci fi that pushes the envelope. Something innovative, curiosity-probing, thought-provoking. Pam Bachorz's Candor more than delivers on that front. With an intriguing characters and a chilling plot line, Candor offers a fresh perspective on the "classic sci-fi themes of conformity and mind control" (back cover).
The first person present tense works very well here. It draws the audience in, sharing the experience live as the events unravel. Oscar - the cheeky little bugger's a very interesting leading man. Bachorz characterizes him exceptionally; intricate details and little asides add depth to his character, flaws add realism. Sherman, oh Sherman, what great comic relief thou dost offer! Mandi too; sure, at first glance it seems Candor has brainwashed them into the perfect teenagers, playing their roles perfectly. But can individuality ever be fully quenched? Quite a stroke of brilliance really - Bachorz manages to subtly add unique quirks to differentiate each character and explore the theme of individuality vs. conformity, nature vs. nurture.
And then of course there's Nia. Spunky, fun, rebellious Nia, whom Oscar falls for. Bachorz conveys their relationship beautifully. Oscar's thoughts of the physical are amusing asides, but also add a realm of realism, to keep it from turning to fluffy sap. There's a real progression shown in Candor, of how they develop, eventually relating on a sensual side. And that is something that takes a lot of skill - something that Bachorz completed masterfully. (I would've liked to have seen a little more interaction between the two before the "L" word popped, maybe a little more playful banter, but that's just me.)
As for the setting, the "world-building" so to speak, Candor presents a very skewed view of society - skewed, but somehow still realistic. The Messages, the mind control, Bachorz implemented the concept beautifully throughout. The new technology, the descriptions thereof - just like Campbell Banks built the city of Candor from the ground in the middle of a swamp, Bachorz took words, ideas, and built them into "perfect" concepts and inventions. The way typical stereotypes are dealt with is very interesting.
Candor is very fast-paced, very edge-of-your-seat, and exceptionally hard to put down. If you must do so for some reason, I would suggest taking that break before hitting the mid-point, because it only accelerates, and by that point, you'll be as hooked on Candor as its residents are addicted to the Messages. The ending - wow. Just wow. It was definitely hard to absorb at first, but now, I couldn't imagine Candor ending any other way. How many brilliant YA novels have had their impact diminished due to a floundering ending? Not Candor though, oh no, the ending here fits as perfectly as if it were custom-made in Candor, a work of Campbell Banks himself. If at all possible, it even augments the impact, the memorability of the story itself.
Spine-tingling and thought-provoking, Candor brings up the probing concepts of mind control and how to force conformity from that. Bachorz has pulled off quite the debut here. In fact, I'm starting to wonder - has she pulled an Oscar Banks herself and inserted subliminal Messages into the book? Perhaps, "Candor is perfect. You will love it."