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I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.

The Chocolate War

The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier

Jerry Renault ponders the question on the poster in his locker: Do I dare disturb the universe? Refusing to sell chocolates in the annual Trinity school fund-raiser may not seem like a radical thing to do. But when Jerry challenges a secret school society called The Vigils, his defiant act turns into an all-out war. Now the only question is: Who will survive? First published in 1974, Robert Cormier's groundbreaking novel, an unflinching portrait of corruption and cruelty, has become a modern classic. (source)

 

I wanted so badly to like this book. I really did. This is yet another book that had been assigned to me for my Resources for Young Adults course and, like the others that I've read so far, it's considered to be a classic. I've heard many people talk about how good this book is and I had hoped that I'd be able to join in their acclaim of the novel. Unfortunately, I was not a fan of this book.

 

I will admit that the writing is exceptionally good, especially for a young adult novel. Young adult novelists sometimes seem to dumb down their writing - I guess they think teens will prefer that? - but Cormier treats teen readers as seriously as he would adult readers (or so I assume, without having read any of his other works). Obviously, I always appreciate good writing, and I appreciate it even more so in young adult novels. 

 

Cormier doesn't shy away from unpleasant topics in his writing, either - his characters are brutal and his story portrays the cruelty with which conformity can be enforced. I think that this is a really interesting topic and I believe that it's one that many teens would be interested in. As for myself, however, it's exactly why I didn't like the book. I very strongly dislike books that portray children and teens as cruel. I realize that kids and teens can be just as mean as adults, but I find it very unsettling to read - it's exactly why I despise Lord of the Flies and wasn't crazy about The Hunger Games. I find it even more unsettling when adults actually encourage this behavior. There were teachers at the school who knew about a good bit of the bullying that was going on and rather than trying to stop it, they encouraged it and even took part in it! Only one teacher tried to put an end to this, but he was unsuccessful. 

 

This book does merit its status as a YA classic, but I really disliked it. If it weren't for how well it's written, I would've given it a 1 or 1.5 star rating. If you don't mind books that take a raw approach to brutality among youth, you might really like this book. As for me, I'm glad I read it, but I won't be reading it again.