Friday, January 17, 2014


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Robert Cormier
Random House Childrens
272 pp.
Ages 12 - 17

Stunned by his mother's recent death and appalled by the way his father sleepwalks through life, Jerry Renault, a New England high school student, ponders the poster in his locker-Do I dare disturb the universe?
Part of his universe is Archie Costello, leader of a secret school societ-the Virgils-and master of intimidation.  Archie himself is intimidated by a cool, ambitious teacher into having the Virgils spearhead the annual fund-raising event-a chocolate sale.  When Jerry refuses to be bullied into selling chocolates, he becomes a hero, but his defiance is a threat to Archie, the Virgils, and the school.  In the inevitable showdown, Archie's skill at intimidation turns Jerry from hero to outcast, to victim, leaving him alone and terribly vulnerable.

A high school freshman discovers the devastating consequences of refusing to join in the school's annual fund raising drive and arousing the wrath of the school bullies. 


I picked up this book on the recommendation of Mr. Richard Peck, author of more than 40 books for kids and teens include Newbery Award winner A Year Down Yonder and his most recent best-seller, The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail.

A fan of books such as Lord of the Flies and The Outsiders, I thoroughly enjoyed The Chocolate War, a story about the struggle for power and control in an all-boys Catholic school. Father Leon assigns the boys to sell chocolates to raise funds for the school. The sale is voluntary, but is it really? One boy defies expectations and authority by refusing to sell. At first it is just an "assignment," a required dare given him by The Vigils, the school's "secret" mafia-like gang. But when the assignment is supposed to end, Jerry's refusal becomes a showdown between him and Leon and the Vigils' manipulative leader, Archie.

Like other classic stories like this, The Chocolate War is both inspiring and disturbing. While I could have done without the references to 'jacking off' and boys oogling girls' breasts (which, I suppose, does lend itself to realism) the story engaged me from the very first sentence: THEY MURDERED HIM.  It's one of the best foreshadowing moments in all of children's literature. Quite frankly, The Chocolate War ought to rank as one of the top twenty novels teens should study in high school.

I give Cormier's masterpiece:


Profanity:  Moderate
Sexuality:  Moderate
Violence:  Moderate

1 comment:

  1. This was a book that I read in high school and we had lots of interesting discussions about it. The story has stayed with me after 20 years- so that says something! Glad you got to read it and enjoyed it. :)