Written by: Robert Cormier.
Publication Info: Published originally by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, in 1974. Paperback edition published by Ember, a division of Random House, in 2011.
One Line: Jerry, a freshman in a private boys’ school, refuses to sell chocolates in the annual sale, and this simple act has consequences beyond his wildest imagination.
Brief Summary: When Jerry enters Trinity High School the fall after his mother dies of cancer, he just wants to make the football team and not think about his life with his father, who seems to be sleepwalking through life. What Jerry doesn’t know is that the school is “ruled” by the secret society The Vigils, and the evil Archie Costello runs that group (despite not being its president). Archie must come up with “assignments” – tasks – for students in the school that are much like hazing rituals. One such assignment is given to Jerry’s friend Goober, who must loosen the screws in every piece of
Thoughts: Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War is considered one of the best Young Adult novels of all time. In 1974, it was one of the first to reveal the darker side of human nature and to eschew the traditional happy ending. Indeed, it shows what seems like a minor decision about something unimportant – boxes of chocolate – causing major problems in the lives of an entire school of boys. The pace of the story is excellent, with short chapters told in third person but from the points of view of different characters. Cormier is a master at crafting mood in only a few words and his descriptions are extremely vivid. The characters are well-drawn teenagers, and the book is ultimately about the search for control. Archie wants to control the school, while Jerry, who has just suffered the ultimate loss, just wants control of his own life. The book also shows the banality of evil: Archie seems like a normal teen boy, but he is actually a sociopath, and the teens in the school are so afraid of the consequences of defying him and the Vigils that they stand by and watch evil happen. Only a few people – The Goober, for one – see what is going on, but Goober has already been beaten by the Vigils and is too weak to do anything about it. Ultimately, The Chocolate War is an important work that reminds us it is important to be aware of the things going on in our universe and to stand up for those who need our help.
Author Information: From https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/10442.Robert_Cormier : “Robert Edmund Cormier (January 17, 1925–November 2, 2000) was an American author, columnist and reporter, known for his deeply pessimistic, downbeat literature. His most popular works include I Am the Cheese, After the First Death, We All Fall Down and The Chocolate War, all of which have won awards. The Chocolate War was challenged in multiple libraries. His books often are concerned with themes such as abuse, mental illness, violence, revenge, betrayal and conspiracy. In most of his novels, the protagonists do not win.”