Okay, so this appeared in last week's "Children's Bookshelf," a children's literature email newsletter by the friendly and invaluable folks at Publishers Weekly. I have made no edits to increase the slickness or better the language of this review. This is exactly what was published:
Emily Fear, manager of children’s books, Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Pittsburgh, Pa., talks about a fall favorite, Candor by Pam Bachorz.
Candor by Pam Bachorz (Egmont USA, Sept.) is a Stepford Wives-esque tale—the galley even references that novel. But instead of a novel about the brainwashing of wives, this is about brainwashing an entire community, especially its teenagers. The founder of the town of Candor tries to shape what he believes should be model teens—down to what they should eat and how they should dress. He plants subliminal messages into audio CDs that play nearly constantly throughout the town. Everyone becomes addicted to the CDs and has to keep listening to them—otherwise they’ll go insane.
The novel doesn’t pull any of the punches you might expect from a YA thriller. You might expect a tidy ending or a hero whose motives are unquestionable and who has noble intentions. But this novel’s protagonist is very flawed. He’s the son of the town’s founder and runs a secret business selling teens CDs to counteract the brainwashing. But actually he’s also brainwashing them—and doing it for profit. There’s a totally unexpected ending that defies the reader’s expectations of what this character is capable of.
I’d recommend this book to customers for a number of reasons. This is a very intelligent teenage thriller, and a spooky one. The novel offers a dark twist on society’s expectations of teens, revealing an exaggerated form of parental authority. I think teens will respond to the notion of what it would be like to have the pressures on them magnified like this. The plot’s pacing is really well done and the action is creepy without being violent. Well, there’s a tiny bit of violence, but nothing very graphic. The gleefully misanthropic protagonist is very likable despite his flaws. And the relationships between the characters are really dynamic.
It’s an incredible first novel, and the fact that the author wrote it while living in Celebration, Florida, the planned community developed by Disney, makes it all the creepier. It’s a great crossover book, especially since so many adults have read or seen the film version of Stepford Wives.