Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Candor

Candor

Pam Bachorz
Fiction
For ages 13 and up
Egmont USA, 2010   ISBN: 978-1606841358

On Oscar’s tenth birthday his big brother died due to a pool accident. Needing a fresh start, Oscar’s parents decided to build a new community in Florida, a town founded by them called Candor. They bought some land and built a lovely custom home on it to show to potential buyers. The home was so stunning that it wasn’t long before people were lining up to live in Candor.

Now Candor is a fully fledged town. All the homes and gardens in Candor are beautifully maintained. The sidewalks are smooth and crack-free. Everything in Candor is perfect, even the children. They study hard, don’t watch TV, don’t get into messy teenage relationships, don’t rebel, and they don’t try to be independent.

There is a reason why the children and teens are this way. All day long they are fed subliminal messages, messages that Oscar’s father has devised to keep the children controlled. After losing first his eldest son, and then his wife - she left him when she found out about the messages - Oscar’s father is determined that Candor will be the kind of community that he approves of. He thinks that art is a waste of time and so there are no art classes in the schools, and children are fed the message that they should not indulge in creating art of any kind.

Everyone thinks that Oscar is perfect. He is the class president, the top student, and he serves as an example to all the other brain-washed young people. What no one knows is that Oscar is fighting back against the messages. He has learned to push them away when he needs to have free will. He has also learned to create counter messages of his own to undermine the ones his father feeds him.

Many of the families who come to Candor these days have children who are troubled, and the parents are seeking out the ‘solution’ that Oscar’s father has on offer. They want their children to be brainwashed so that they become compliant and obedient. What Oscar does is he tries to help some of these new arrivals to break free of Candor before the messages have stripped them of their free will. For a price. The kids who have the funds can buy Oscar for his help. He supplies them with custom made CDs containing messages that fight back against the brainwashing, and he also has a system for getting them out of town and away.

Up until now Oscar has always remained distant from the teens he has helped escape Candor’s deadly grasp, but then Nia arrives and things get a lot more complicated. At first Oscar wants to help the beautiful, free-thinking, artistic girl to get out of Candor, but then he dares to dream that with his help she can be free like him and stay in Candor. Oscar wants Nia in his life and though he knows it is a risk, he tries to love her and keep her at the same time. Oscar knows that if he and Nia are caught they will both have their minds wiped, and if this happens Oscar will lose all his memories of his old life and he will be forever in his father’s grasp. For some reason his fear of this awful eventuality does not stop Oscar from trying to make Nia a part of his life.

When Nia finds out about the brain washing and messages she immediately rejects Oscar and she and another teen fight back against the establishment. They are found out, and in short order they both have their brains wiped. Nia the rebel becomes Nia the girl who is like all the other girls in Candor. She becomes a shell. Oscar could give up on Nia, but he doesn’t. He wants the old Nia back.

This often chilling story is not for the faint of heart. Readers will find themselves in a place that seems perfect on the surface but that is, underneath, artificial and dangerous. Oscar’s struggles are painful to witness, but they are also true to life and powerful.

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