Oscar Banks lives in the extremely popular city of Candor that his father founded in the book “Candor” by Pam Bachorz. In Candor all of the kids are perfect and never make mistakes, relationships miraculously become better and best of all, no one ever wants to leave. Oscar is the star student. He gets straight A’s, volunteers frequently for every club, and all of the other kids want to be just like him. However, it is as if Oscar is under cover. He knows how to fight the subliminal messages that are fed to all of the citizens of Candor and he helps those teens that have enough money escape to the real world. When Nia moves into town, it turns his world upside down. Nia is a teenage artist with some obedience issues and Oscar likes her just the way she is. He secretly feeds her his own messages to keep her from learning the truth and wanting to leave. They fall in love. When Nia learns about the secrets he was keeping from her, everything begins to fall apart. Will their relationship be able to weather this storm or will they be lost forever?
While I was reading Candor I thought it was pretty good with an interesting premise, however, it had several inconsistencies within the story. There were two that really bothered me. First, it said that the parents were told about the Messages before they move in and that’s how the kids stop misbehaving and their marriage problems might go away. So, they know that their children are being brainwashed and they know that they will be brainwashed as well. This bothers me most because I don’t know of any parents, no matter how rotten their kids are, that would be willing to have their own children brainwashed, let alone do it to themselves. It is unbelievable and that is the biggest issue I have with it. That being said, there was one other inconsistency that really irked me. The Messages were given subliminally through music. Yet some of the Messages talked about how art was evil and it shouldn’t be encouraged, etc. Hmmm… last I knew, music was a form of art. This one definitely bothered me the most because it was so glaringly obvious and pushed by the author throughout the entire book!
I liked the main character, Oscar, a lot. I thought that he was interesting and can’t forget how difficult it would have been to hide the truth from his own dad. He did love his dad even for all of his father’s faults. It would have been extremely lonely in a town when only he knew the truth. He would have made friends with those that he helped to escape but then would have no other contact with them. Even though I liked Oscar, I can’t help but wonder if the reason he fell in love with Nia is just because she was so different from everyone else in that entire town. Also, why doesn’t he just tell her the truth in the beginning? It would have made everything a lot simpler and it would have been easier to get her to act how he needed her to. Other than those things, I liked Oscar. He was a well rounded character and it was sweet how he cared for the people in the town even though they were brainwashed. Overall, I enjoyed the story line and thought there were several good things brought up in this book.
Seventeen-year-old “Hank” doesn’t know who he is or where he came from, he only knows that he woke up at Penn Station in New York City with ten dollars in his pocket and a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Waldon in his hands. So Hank decides to start on his own journey to Waldon, trying to discover what it was that Thoreau discovered and, hopefully, in the process discover who he is and what his own journey is about.
I have to admit that Being Henry David is not the usual YA novel that I read, I read it because my book club chose it for the book for this last month. That being said, it was an interesting read. It took me a little while to get into it, especially since the beginning made me think it was going to be about teenagers and the underground drug culture, which it is NOT about. But once I started to get into I found myself traveling with Hank as he discovered who he is and what was so horrible in his past that his mind caused him to forget it (totally NOT what I thought it was going to be). Armistead mixes quotes from Waldon throughout the novel, weaving an interesting mix of the old and new as Hank experiences new things and discover old things he has forgotten. Being Henry David is worth a read.
Gwen has spent her entire life in her cousin’s shadow in Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier. She is a normal teenager, well except for the fact that she can see and talk to ghosts. Oh, and her family has a certain gene that allows some members of the family to go back in time. Gwen’s cousin, Charlotte, has been training her whole life to go back in time for the secret society. The gene begins to manifest itself as teenagers and Gwen gets the surprise of her life. She gets thrown into a society that she understands nothing about. Her partner to help her adjust to going back in time is a gorgeous Gideon and Gwen immediately begins to crush on him big time. Not only is Gwen dealing with the troubles of being a teenager, but now she has so much more she has to deal with as well as trying to understand the leaders of the secret society she has unexpectedly found herself involved in. Can Gwen work her way through historic London with the help of Gideon? Will she be able to find who, in this strange new world, that she can trust?
I picked this book up on sale and absolutely loved it! Within two days, I had read the first two books in the series and had to figure out with the third book would be released. Gwen is a character that you love and can relate to so easily! She is an average teenager that loves to watch movies with her friends and is trying to survive the troubles of being a teenager. Gwen isn’t considered beautiful, she isn’t a straight A student, she is slightly overweight, and she is sarcastic. All of these qualities combine to make a heroine that anyone can love.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson starts out on the first day of Melinda’s freshman year. She is a social outcast, shy, and isn’t very pretty. Because Mel calls the cops while she is at a party before school starts, everyone in the school is way mad including her “best friends”. Mel also has a difficult home life because her parents fight frequently and have stopped talking almost at all. When the new girl, Heather, befriends her, Mel finally thinks she is needed by someone. She kind of starts making friends with her biology lab partner, David Petrakis, and things are looking up until she sees the man that ruined her life is starting to date her ex-bestfriend Rachel.
Speak keeps you interested enough to keep reading, even if you’ve read it before. Melinda is a fascinating character and her internal struggle is very potent for readers. Speak should be required for all teenagers to read because while it deals with a very specific problem, it also doesn’t go into such details so as to make it too graphic. Not only does Melinda have to struggle overcoming this huge event in her life, but she also has to deal with an unhappy family life. She also struggles fitting in at school, which is another problem teenagers face today. Anderson does a fabulous job really getting into the teenage mind and uses it to help other teenagers who read her books. While I did enjoy this book, the characters are a little flat and could have been developed a little more. I also felt like people would have noticed the change in Melinda’s personality (like her parents or classmates). The ending still left some questions unanswered (why didn’t she get him arrested?!) and seemed a little abrupt. Overall it is a good book and I think teenagers (and adults with teenagers) should read this book. It could open the gates to talking about some of the more delicate topics.