by Inara Scott
293 pages, Hyperion
The Candidates is Inara Scott’s debut novel. It’s got everything we’ve become accustomed to seeing in young adult books these days: School setting, mysterious powers, love triangle.
Dancia Lewis is our main character and the narrative is first person from her point of view. She lives with her grandmother in a small town with a prestigious private school at the top of the hill, surrounded by iron gates. It’s a privilege to go to Delacroix Academy, and an expensive one at that. But Dancia is offered a full scholarship out of the blue by the chief recruiter and his student assistant, a handsome, athletic and highly persuasive boy named Cam.
Dancia is adept at deluding herself. She has no idea how pretty she really is, thinks she’s the token welfare student despite the fact that everyone at the school, herself included, seems to have an unusual ability, and she can’t figure out the bad boy is really the hero and the good guy’s a manipulative creep.
Jack is the bad boy, and becomes a loyal friend to her throughout the first semester at Delacroix. Like her, he’s on scholarship, but unlike impressionable Dancia, he distrusts everyone in authority at the school, and for good reason. He may sound like a deranged conspiracy theorist, but the powers that be at Delaxroix really are manipulating the students for their own purposes. The question is: are those purposes for good or evil? Jack doesn’t care; he’s always been a loner hiding his power just like Dancia, but unlike his friend, he won’t allow himself to be controlled.
The Candidates is the first in what will probably be a trilogy, and the novel is a little short on plot and heavy on setup for the next two. Dancia is only fourteen years old, so the reader has to give her some leeway when her choices are so groaningly frustrating. We must assume that as the trilogy progresses, she’ll grow up and figure out who her true friends really are.