Sunday, February 7, 2010

Candor, by Pam Bachorz

Candor, by Pam Bachorz. New York: Egmont USA, 2009. ISBN-10: 1606840126; ISBN-13: 978-1606840122. 256 p.

Plot Summary
In the town of Candor, Florida, everything is perfect. Kids respect their elders, do their chores, and love doing homework--because they're being controlled by subliminal messages. Oliver Banks is a model kid--at least, he pretends to be. Really, he knows about the Messages and fights them with messages of his own. He secretly helps other teens escape Candor. But when a new girl moves into town, his attraction to her threatens to expose his secret rebellion.

Critical Evaluation
Delving into issues of identity and memory, Pam Bachorz's debut novel was inspired by the six years she lived in a model community in Florida. She makes it easy to understand both Oliver's rebellion and the events in his family's life that led to the Messages, as well as why he would risk it all for a girl. The characters are believable, except for Oliver's father, whose actions seem a little over the top for a loving father (although even they become clearer by the end of the story). The implications of a potential world where brainwashing is possible are chilling.

Reader’s Annotation
Oliver pretends to be a model son in the town of Candor, but he really spends his time helping other teenagers sneak out of this town where they are brainwashed. When Nia moves into town, he can tell she is different, that the messages don't affect her as strongly as they do others. Can he get her out of Candor before it's too late?

Author Information
Pam Bachorz grew up in a small town in the Adirondacks, where she performed as much as possible and tried her best to get out of anything athletic. She played the cello, and can still belt out songs from "The Fantasticks" and "The Music Man." She attended college in Boston, and got four degrees (a BA in Journalism, a BS in Environmental Science, a Masters in Library Science, and an MBA). She currently lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and son. She loves visiting museums, watching television, and reading books meant for young adults. Her website is and she blogs at

In an interview, Pam shared what inspired her to write about subliminal messaging. "I think the greatest horror is to lose control of your own thoughts. They are your most private thing in the world--the thing you own above all else. So I've always been fascinated by things like brainwashing and subliminal messages. For this story, I was actually inspired by a mosquito truck, of all things! We were living in a Florida town that hired a truck to drive around twice a day and spray for mosquitoes. Supposedly the spray was harmless to people (and given how many bug bites we still got, I wonder whether it worked on mosquitoes!). One night I was out walking the dog and the truck passed us, with a big white plume of spray coming off the back. We were coated in it. What if, I wondered, the spray was filled with Prozac? And if it was, would anybody even object--or would they pay extra for "happy spray"? From there I went to brainwashing with something else hidden: not medicine, but subliminal Messages that are hidden in music."

Science fiction: dystopian novel

Curriculum Ties
Psychology: the implications of brainwashing and mind control.

Booktalking Ideas
What if your thoughts weren't your own? What if everyone except you was brainwashed?

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 9-12

Challenge Issues

I included this book because it was selected as a finalist for the 2009 Cybil Awards.


Post a Comment