4.0 73
by Pam Bachorz

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In the model community of Candor, Florida, every teen wants to be like Oscar Banks. The son of the town's founder, Oscar earns straight As, is student-body president, and is in demand for every club and cause.
But Oscar has a secret. He knows that parents bring their teens to Candor to make them respectful, compliant–perfect–through subliminal Messages…  See more details below


In the model community of Candor, Florida, every teen wants to be like Oscar Banks. The son of the town's founder, Oscar earns straight As, is student-body president, and is in demand for every club and cause.
But Oscar has a secret. He knows that parents bring their teens to Candor to make them respectful, compliant–perfect–through subliminal Messages that carefully correct and control their behavior. And Oscar' s built a business sabotaging his father's scheme with Messages of his own, getting his clients out before they're turned. After all, who would ever suspect the perfect Oscar Banks?
Then he meets Nia, the girl he can't stand to see changed. Saving Nia means losing her forever. Keeping her in Candor, Oscar risks exposure . . . and more.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Debut novelist Bachorz delivers a dystopian novel that takes place in the present, giving the genre a fresh twist. In the town of Candor, conformity is law; negative emotions are banished; and residents are fed a steady diet of subliminal Messages—“Respectful space in every place. Avoid physical contact”—that dull any impulse toward creativity, rebellion or even sexual desire. Oscar Banks, the son of Candor's founder, leads a double life. Secretly, he's the town's biggest rebel—he illegally shuttles kids to freedom before the Messages can take hold (for a price)—while on the surface he's “the model Candor boy.... Proof that the Messages work.” But when Oscar falls for the new girl, Nia, he's forced to rethink his entire identity. Some of the premise is difficult to swallow, such as that within days, residents of Candor become so addicted to the Messages that even a few hours without them could mean death. But Bachorz needs this high-stakes bit to justify why kids can't simply run away. On the whole, it's a compelling story that quickly becomes a page-turner. Be prepared for a chilling ending. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
VOYA - Matthew Weaver
Oscar Banks is the son of the developer of Candor, a small, tight-knit utopian community. But rather than espousing the old cliche that children should be seen and not heard, Oscar's father adheres to the Stepford-ish adage that children should be brainwashed into acting perfectly. Oscar struggles against the secret messages—"Respectful space in every place" and "Studying is your top priority"—that his father puts out over loudspeakers to get the locals to behave, and rebels by slipping his own subliminal messages to the new arrivals. Trouble arrives in the form of an artistic, free spirit Nia, who sets Oscar's hormones raging and might just poke holes in his pretense of being the model son. This novel starts strong, and Nia and Oscar's romance hits all the right notes. A community brainwashing its young adults seems ripe for young adult literature, an instant classic. But the plot stumbles under its own complexity, as the lines become less clear over whether Oscar is rebelling against his father or if he is really his biggest victim. If ambiguity is Bachorz's intention, she is brilliant. The story gets bogged down with uncertainty, taking away the power of the biggest moments, when Oscar meets a brainwashed Nia and the truth ultimately comes out about his activities. These conflicts should leave the readers breathless, but they fail to land with any real impact. The book is clever, but with stronger plotting, it could have been brilliant. Reviewer: Matthew Weaver
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—A chilling dystopian novel set in the present. In Candor, FL, all of the teens respect their parents, study religiously, eat nutritiously, obey the rules, are always courteous, and refrain from physical contact. Sound unreal? It is. The citizens are controlled by subliminal messages in music. Those caught disobeying the messages or trying to escape are sent to the Listening Room and have their memories erased. Oscar, teenaged son of the town's founder, is the model Candor boy—except that it's all an act. He has conned everyone into thinking he is perfect while secretly making a huge profit by helping teens escape before they're permanently changed. He has made his own CDs with messages to counteract the official ones. Nothing really touches him until he falls for new girl Nia, a skateboarding graffiti artist with a bad attitude that's sure to get her in trouble. Now, he is faced with the dilemma. Should he help her escape and lose her forever or risk being caught trying to stop her from being turned into a Stepford Wife-like clone if she stays? Readers may be a bit disconcerted by Oscar at first because he is not very likable and his desire for Nia borders on creepily obsessive at times. The rationale for the creation of Candor also seems a bit far-fetched. Still, debut author Bachorz has written a timely and compulsively readable page-turner that has a powerfully affective ending.—Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton
Kirkus Reviews
Everyone is on-message in Candor, Fla. (a planned community not unlike Disney's Celebration), and Oscar Banks's father decides that message through mind-controlling music. For teenagers who have the money and the motivation to escape from Candor, Oscar offers his own rebellious subliminal messages. After falling in love with new arrival Nia, Oscar weighs his perfect persona against Nia's survival, watching as she falls victim to Candor's illusion of perfection. Bachorz's premise causes a momentary chill: Given music's ubiquitous presence today, readers can easily wonder if there's a message lurking in every melody. A nicely paced plot keeps the narrative moving and successfully builds tension. However, Oscar's attempts to rescue Nia quickly move from romantic to disturbing and seem to reinforce an unfortunately stereotypical and dated sense of romance: Women must be forcibly wooed by men who know better. Though his obsessive love rings true and the possibility exists that he moves beyond his damaging mindset, the author's hand is all too evident. Despite the unsuccessful romantic element, overall it's a well-reasoned, creepily possible first novel. (Science fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date:
Fiction - Young Adult
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Sales rank:
HL350L (what's this?)
File size:
5 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years


Meet the Author

Pam Bachorz's debut novel was inspired by the six years she lived in Celebration, Florida–a "model" small town–when she thought, What if . . . ? She now lives in the Washington DC area, with her husband and son. You can visit her online at

From the Hardcover edition.

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