Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier (1974)

I read this because it was an assigned text. It was this, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland or Ender's Game (which I also plan to read.) I have to use it as an exemplar for the types of books children/adolescents should read. When it was published, the content was extremely controversial. It was banned from schools and libraries It is number 3 on the American Library Association's list of Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books. I think this is unwarranted, the main character Jerry does get sexually explicit at times, but not overtly so.

This book was okay. It was really easy to get through, I think I managed it in a couple hours. It has been heralded as one of the best young adult novels of all time, but I don't really understand why. It's not particularly compelling and there are a lot of characters that you have to wrap your head around.

A all-boys Catholic high school, Trinity, has an annual chocolate sale. This year, acting headmaster Brother Leon orders double the amount of more expensive chocolates. The boys now have to sell twice as many at double the price. The sales are abysmal, and Brother has to enlist the help of the Vigils, a secret, student-run society. They control the school by giving out assignments like unscrewing classroom furniture until it almost falls apart. Archie, the assignment inventor, makes Jerry refuse to 'volunteer' to sell his chocolates for ten days. Jerry plays along, but decides he never wants to sell them at all, which screws with the Vigils plan. Jerry gets beaten up and yet still refuses. The Vigils get other boys to sell his chocolates, and eventually every box is sold. But since Jerry disobeyed, and example has to be made. He is goaded into a fight where he is beaten almost to death, with a crowd of his peers who scream 'kill him."

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