The Candymakers

The CandymakersMy daughter desperately wanted me to read The Candymakers—having finally gotten to it in my queue, I can see why she was so excited. It’s the book that would result if you mashed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with The Westing Game, and it was possibly the most surprising book I’ve read in years.

I don’t want to ruin the experience of the book by trying to tell you too much about it, so this will be a somewhat brief review. It’s the story of four kids taking part in a candy making contest (Logan, Miles, Daisy, and Philip) and the point of view changes throughout the book. The author handles this gracefully, without repeating incidents we’ve already read about with another character. The narrator is reliable—there’s no question of what really happened, just motivations and explanations that are missing until we get another perspective.

It’s not a short book, due to so many viewpoints, but it’s not a hard read, either. Once I got to the last hundred or so pages, I just put life on hold until I got to the end of the book. It’s a great book for precocious readers.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


There are relatively few women in the candy making business. Logan’s mother is glad Daisy is there because there’s another female around. However, women are allowed to be strong, too—the taffypuller is one of the strongest people in the factory, and Daisy is probably the strongest of the kids. The boys all notice that Daisy is pretty—Philip wants to point out that girls can be either pretty or smart, but doesn’t want Daisy to know he thinks she’s pretty. (Of course, Daisy is actually quite intelligent, as the reader knows.)


Logan’s family is warm and accepting and wonderful. They own the candy factory where much of the story takes place. The workers in the factory create an extended family for Logan, and his life is comforting and supportive. He is well loved.

Miles’ family does their best to support their son as he works through a tough time, but sometimes they seem a little frayed.

Daisy’s family probably loves her, but the secrets are a bit much.

Philip’s mother died when he was young, although her influence is felt throughout his story. His father is very demanding, expecting only success from his sons. Philip’s older brother lives up to this and Philip is doing his best. But in the process, he’s unable to really be who he is.


How do you decide what’s the right thing to do? Is cheating for the right reasons occasionally the correct course of action? Is lying sometimes necessary? The answer in the book is, for the most part, yes. Sometimes the path to the right thing means going against what you’re told to do. It wrestles with morality in a very 12 year old appropriate way (that’s the approximate age of the main characters).

Teamwork vs. Individuality

The kids definitely learn that they’re stronger together. The adults in the candy factory already know this, but they stand back and let the kids learn for themselves. The kids also learn that things they take for granted or are even ashamed of can often be great strengths that other people admire.


Things aren’t always as they appear. There’s almost always more to the story, especially because people continue to grow and change. How you see yourself is not necessarily how others will view you, both for good and bad. The characters change and grow tremendously through the course of the story. Part of what they learn is to let go of guilt and anger—sometimes the things you feel responsible for aren’t even your doing.

Trauma & Guilt

Miles thinks he saw a girl drown a few years ago. He’s wracked with guilt because he couldn’t save her and he’s obsessed with the afterlife. He speaks backwards when he’s stressed out.

SPOILER ALERT – There’s more to this section, dealing with some trauma that happened well before the story takes place—we see nothing first hand. It’s handled very well, which is part of why I don’t want to spoil it for you unless you really want me to. So this paragraph has been moved all the way down to the bottom of the review, under the information about the book.


My 12 year old daughter loved this book and so did I. It’s thought provoking and surprising without going anywhere too dark. The candy factory is nearly magical and some parts of the setting are almost fantastical, but the emotional struggles of the kids feel very real. Definitely appropriate for precocious readers 10 and up, maybe even a little younger. There’s plenty here for older readers, including adults.

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
Published in 2010 by Little, Brown and Company
Read the book my daughter borrowed from her school library




Logan was burned very severely as a child—his face, hands, and arms are covered with scars that make him clumsy. You can’t look at him and not notice. But he’s used to it now—he doesn’t remember what he looked like before, so it’s just who he is, to him. Through the course of the book, he starts to realize how others view him and how they see the scars and how they feel sorry for him. He’s rather horrified by this. He just wants to be dealt with on his own merits, not seen as “brave” for facing the world with his scars. This is a theme throughout the book, and it’s quite powerful.

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