I picked up Candor because there was a display at the library which offered it as suggested reading to those who liked Divergent, which was a book I really enjoyed. It happened to be on the shelves of the library, so I checked it out!
Candor is set in the very special planned community of Candor, Florida. In Candor, everyone’s mind is controlled by subliminal messages telling them to conform to a certain standard of behavior. Free choice is non-existent. The community is made up of the very rich who have previously-troubled children. The story is told by Oscar Banks, the son of Candor’s founder/brain-controller. Oscar has found a way to not let the messages control him, but he spends his whole existence trying to act like the messages control him, so his father is none-the-wiser. That is until bad-girl-hottie Nia Silva moves to town. Oscar is attracted to Nia’s rebelliousness and artistic abilities and the two fall in love, with Oscar feeding Nia counter-messages to keep her from falling under his father’s control. Stuff goes down and Oscar makes some tough decisions.
This was a pretty absorbing book, though probably not my favorite dystopia-esque read. The book was actually quite dark and a bit creepy. I think the darkness was appropriate given that we’re talking about perfection at the cost of personal choice and freedom. There is absolutely no way to escape the messages, which makes it a little hopeless, too. And the ending was disturbing/hopeless. I was expecting an unhappy ending, though, so I think a happy ending would have really killed the tone of the book.
Character-wise, there wasn’t anyone to really love. Oscar is (understandably) lonely, bitter, cowardly, selfish, and paranoid throughout most of the book. The only good we see in him is in regards to his undying love for Nia. Nia was a bit of a stereotype: the rebellious, artistic Catholic girl who drinks, does drugs, and has sex just to piss off her parents, but who really just needs love. Oscar’s dad is a piece of work. While there is some back story as to why he is controlling what an entire town thinks, eats, and does, he is pretty much a total villain who has no qualms about spying on, controlling, and torturing his own son. The supporting characters just serve to throw major kinks into Oscar’s peaceful rebellion.
I have to say that the world-building was pretty interesting, though. I have spent a good portion of my life living in the burbs and I couldn’t help but be amused at the names of the different house models, the fact that everyone travels around in NEVs (basically fancy golf carts), and the fact that the school kids are such perfect pillars of academic achievement. It almost reminded me of some of the kids I went to high school with– you know, the Ivy-League-bound crowd. So yeah, the place was something I could actually imagine and go along with.
Finally, the plot was a bit predictable, although fairly entertaining.
All that said, I did like this book and would describe it as a darker, more mature, more modern The Giver. Both deal with societies in which free choice doesn’t exist and where one boy seeks to avoid that fate. Worth reading, but probably just as a library book.