Candor by Pam Bachorz
Oscar Banks is the town of Candor's number one model citizen. He's got the perfect grades, the perfect girlfriend, and the perfect life. Every kid in school wants to be like him, and every girl in town is dying to be his girlfriend. But Oscar Banks has a secret: he's not who anyone thinks he is, including his own father. Living in a town his father created to turn the most delinquent of teens into model kids and help even the most far from fixing marriages, Oscar has figured out the underlying truth behind the perfection of Candor. Using what he calls "Messages" (ie. subliminal messages embedded deep in music), Oscar knows that his father is controlling and shaping the town's minds' into whatever each citizen pays big bucks for: resulting in a new and improved family. It's no wonder that the waiting list to get an extremely expensive yet basic plot of land is so long, when as a parent, you're guaranteed to have your brat of a child whipped into shape in a matter of a couple weeks. Oscar uses all this information to his advantage, promising to help newly arrived teens out of Candor before they change, in exchange for a large fee. He prepares everything for them, including cd's of his own Messages the escapees will need for the rest of their lives outside of Candor; because once you've been exposed to the Messages, you can't ever go without them or the consequences in most cases are death by personal injury. Making his own counter Messages is the only way Oscar's been able to make it as long as he has without turning into a Candor clone himself. As Oscar himself says “Other people don’t notice when a Message fills their head. But I’ve been here longer than anyone. And I’ve found ways to train myself. I know when my brain is feeding me Messages. I know how to fight them.”
Everything is going fine for Oscar until he meets the new addition to Candor: Nia. So unlike any of the girls he's initially met, and definitely different than any of the Candor clones, Oscar is torn between saving Nia from Candor, or keeping her for himself with his own concoction of Messages. His plan of keeping Nia in the dark as to the truth of Candor, while slowly feeding her Messages to prolong her genuine self, proves to be beneficial in the beginning. The only problem is, when Oscar's own meddling with the Messages sets off a chain reaction, Nia, and others in Candor, are no longer safe.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s a little bit older, having come out in 2009 but it fits nicely into one of my favorite genres known as dystopian fiction; which according to Wikipedia, means, “Fiction set in a futuristic society that has degraded into a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian.” If you’ve read the hugely popular Hunger Games series, another example of a dystopian society, it gives you an idea of the genre. I really liked that this story kind of ended with a twist, but not. I was surprised and upset by the end, but at the same time, could see the possible outcome from very early on in the book. I like stories that don’t necessarily end in a “happily ever after” sort of way, not to say there were not some elements of that present at the end. My advice: if you like The Giver by Lois Lowry or Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, try giving this story a read. And after reading Candor, if you haven’t read the other two novels I’ve mentioned, definitely give them a shot too.