What They Say:
Oscar Banks has everything under control. In a town where his father brainwashes everyone, he's found a way to secretly fight the subliminal Messages. He's got them all fooled: Oscar's the top student and the best-behaved teen in town. Nobody knows he's made his own Messages to deprogram his brain. Oscar has even found a way to get rich. For a hefty price, he helps new kids escape Candor, Florida before they're transformed into cookie-cutter teens. But then Nia Silva moves to Candor, and Oscar's carefully-controlled world crumbles.
What I Say:
I like me some science-fiction and I love me some utopia (though on a small scale here), but I must say I like it even more in a contemporary setting. What's creepier than a community of brainwashed teens that could possibly exist? It's great. I grabbed this book from the library at random, but it was definitely a good choice. That said...
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
So there's this boy, Oscar. He lives with his father, the mayor of the little town of Candor, Florida, an idyllic little community where everything and everyone is perfect, for a price. Everyone listens to these music CDs packed with subliminal messages to control their behavior, but being the son of the mayor, Oscar discovered the secret long ago and has been unbrainwashing himself by rebrainwashing himself with CDs of his own (fridge logic is telling me this is probably not good for a person's brain. Just sayin'). So the kids in town are loaded (the real estate in Candor is just through the roof), and Oscar earns a shady living helping kids escape before they're completely brainwashed. When badgirl Nia moves to town, Hot New Girl Syndrome kicks in and Oscar totally loses his shit.
I was going to say I liked this plotline for its originality, but that's not really the right word. It kind of took elements from other works (Stepford Wives, various "escape-from" stories, even a bit of The Giver) and molded it into something new. I could still guess what might happen here or there, but not until maybe three pages before it did. The way it was written, you really wanted to the characters to make it out (though maybe not Nia).
So Oscar was the mastermind behind the whole story, after his evil overlord dad. He was a good narrator, and really carried the story, seeing as outside of him and Nia, none of the characters had any depth (zombieville, remember?). Having to deal with bratty rich kids at his "job", I can understand why he often turns up the jerkass. Also, he has some issues of his own: how do you cry over your dead brother and runaway mom when you're being brainwashed to forget? Side note: I don't really like the name Oscar? Like what is that? I have yet to meet an Oscar that I like.
I should be objective about Nia, but god she annoyed me to death. For the first half of the book, I actually liked her. She's original and clever in a town of two-dimensional clones, she likes art, she's kind of nice. I like her better when she and Oscar get together (always a plus). But then Stuff Happens and I want to bludgeon her the next 200 pages. Not just because she loses all her good qualities, but it kind of bends up Oscar's head (and does he need any more mental problems?)
Oscar and Nia - Like I said, it started out good. But then, you know, the Spoilery Stuff happens and it gets all angsty and awkward and obsessive. But the change really drives the story, because it gives Oscar reasons to actually hate the town. In fact, it makes the reader feel exactly how Oscar feels (frustrated, hopeless, etc), which is actually really good writing! But yeah, not a good relationship.
Special Features: wow
Lovelovelove the utopia angle. I don't know what it is, but I just love reading about it. All the little things that make them "work" (the weird rules, the weird social structure, the weird this-and-that). It fascinates me. Also, I loved the cover. I mean, that boy is seriously good-looking. Set the tone for the whole book, haha.
"In a few minutes nobody will know what I did. Everything will be perfect again. Except for my life."I had to return the book a while ago, so I sadly couldn't flip through for my favorite quotes. But it's creepy ones like this that keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time. Oscar's ability to brainwash people himself starts to give him this crazy feeling of ultimate control from time to time, kind of like (gasp!) his father. (Man. I have to read this book again!)