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The Chocolate War

(Book #1 in the Chocolate War Series)

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. One of the most controversial YA novels of all time, The Chocolate War is a modern masterpiece that speaks to fans of S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders and John Knowles's A Separate Peace . After suffering...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Bittersweet chocolate

It's difficult to review "The Chocolate War" because so much has already been said about it. The painful story of one boy's steadfast refusal to sell chocolates for his high school, and the consequences he faces for such a decision is as brilliant and difficult to read as ever. This isn't to say that the book is difficult to read stylistically. Instead, it's a well written tour de force that slyly invites the reader to know more about the characters, even as the situations described grow worse and worse.Cormier is to be commended for creating one of the world's first young adult psychological thrillers. Though the end of the book does disintegrate into needless violence, most of this story concerns mental anguishes and locked horns as characters vie for superiority over their fellows without fisticuffs. There's some interest in figuring out who the book's protagonist is too. Our sympathies lie, of course, with poor Jerry Renault. Here's the single man poised to challenge the universe around him. Then there's Archie Costello. Leader of the school's secret society and an interesting portrait of someone both evil and amazingly confident he works his hardest to bring Renault down. Both boys (men?) fight. One for what he believes is right, and the other for his own selfish desires. In the end, it is difficult to accept that the man who has ended up on top is entirely less deserving.The book's downbeat ending, in which our hero declares that it is never wise to buck the system, has always brought the book under a certain amount of fire. Adults who read this book find themselves trying to shield it from their own kids. Which is, of course, patently ridiculous. Any kid who has ever attended activities with others their own age will instantly recognize the fear and intimidation their peers can inspire. The book's excellent understanding of how large groups of people will stay silent when one of them is being persecuted, because none of them want to be singled out, is drilled home in the story's final climactic boxing match. Better still, Cormier truly explores the nature of violence in every human being. Archie understands it, and sets up a situation where the kids of the school participate in something akin to the gladiator fights of ancient Rome. The final atrocity Archie manages to perpetuate against Jerry is that he makes the kid himself want to taste blood. To give in to the violence around him. It's heartbreaking and amazingly well written.The fact that there's a sequel to "The Chocolate War" depresses me on some level. This is one book I really felt stood on its own. We can imagine the repercussions that occur later well enough without having to rely on a continuation of some sort. Either the sequel will simply establish the first book's moral (disturbing the status quo may well kill you) or it will trump everything the first book ever proposed (now the good guys win and the bad guys suffer). In any case, "The Chocolate War

Do I dare disturb the universe?

Few books have left as lasting an impact on me as The Chocolate War. Like Jerry Renault, I too remember the subtle and not-so-subtle cruelties people inflict on each other in school. Like him, I know what it is like to feel peer pressure and to feel despair over the direction your life seems to be taking and the need to make your mark. So I understood why Jerry felt he had to rebel against the evil rulers of the school. Getting ostrasized and beaten was preferrable to staying invisible and allowing the evil authority figures to get their way.Robert Cormier was truly an incredible author whom I will sorely miss. Unlike other young adult authors, Cormier understood that adolescence is not necessarily a happy time of life. I think that's why I gravitated towards him when I was a teenager instead of other young adult authors who wrote chirpy upbeat teen books. Cormier might be depressing, but he certainly leaves an impression on you.What I found especially disturbing about this book was the way the adults condoned the actions of the Vigils by turning a blind eye to them. I too remember in school how teachers sometimes turned a blind eye to subtle bullying because they didn't want to deal with it. The Vigils bring order to the school which is what the brothers want. The boys' parents send them to Trinity as they believe the school will bring them up right. Brother Leon even employs the Vigils to bring down a rebel student. For that matter, what about the way the students turn a blind eye to Jerry's plight? Even Jerry's friend the Goober is not there for Jerry when he needs him. Like Simon Peter, the Goober lets Jerry down...There's something fascistic about Trinity High. It reminds me of Nazi Germany or the Taliban.

The Chocolate War, A Truly Great Teenage Style Novel

It was almost time for the biggest event of the year at Trinity High School, the chocolate sale. There is one problem, they had to sell twice as many boxes as the past year, and for twice the amount of money. The head of the school, Brother Leon, asks of Archie Costello and the Vigils' help to sell that much chocolate. Archie assures Brother Leon of his support, and agrees to help sell all of the chocolate. The Vigils are a group of students that don't officially exist, although everybody knows they do. They have all of the power in the school, whatever they want to happen, happens. For a strange reason, it is like they have a power over the teachers also. What they mainly do is pick children, usually lower-classmen, to complete one of their assignments. Although Carter, a popular athlete, is the President of the Vigils, the true leader is the Assignor, Archie Costello. Archie is very slick, he is always two steps ahead of everybody he is talking to, and nobody can ever deceive him. The first assignment within the book is assigned to a freshman called Goober. He is assigned to sneak into room nineteen, Brother Eugene's room, when everybody is gone. In his room Goober is to loosen every screw in his room to where it will fall out if anything touches it. Likewise, the assignment is completed. The next morning everybody comes into room nineteen and the disaster occurs. All of the desks collapse, even when a book is placed on one. When Brother Eugene enters the room, he hurries to his desk, and that collapses also. He is a wreck and is never seen again. Of course, Goober feels bad about what he has done. When it is finally time for the chocolate sale, Jerry Renault, another freshman, gets a note in his locker to attend the next Vigil meeting. Jerry is assigned to not sell any chocolates for ten days. Each day, when Brother Leon calls the roll call to see how many boxes of chocolates have been sold, Jerry replies "No." He refuses to sell the chocolates. Once his ten days are over, he continues to refuse to sell the chocolates. This is not a problem at first because the whole school is selling chocolate, except for Jerry. After a while, people begin to think about what Jerry is doing, and decide that they will not sell the chocolates either. At first, Archie does not care, but then he remembers that he promised Brother Leon that the chocolates would be sold. Archie now has to go to work, and indeed he does. First he has to make selling chocolates the thing to do; he has to make it cool to sell chocolates, which he does. Now jerry must sell the chocolates, which won't be as easy as making it cool to sell chocolates. Read the rest of the book to find out if Jerry ends up selling the chocolates, and what Archie does in his endeavor to make Jerry sell them. Also, you will find out what happens after the chocolate sale, which is very surprising.

Not for the weak of heart

Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War, is a book of intense magnification into the dark side of human nautre. The book is a constant barrage of sexual references, perversion, pain, violence, mind games, greed, power, and corruption. Jerry Renault finds himself pitted against this dark side of man's nautre and must struggle just to survive. Archie, (archenemy) the personification of eveil, preys on the weakness of the faculty and students of Trinity. Archie never seems to be wrong in his ability to take advantage of people's weaknesses. He undermines the moral fiber of the school for his own self gratification. Although he loves what he does, he hates it at the same time. With the help of his flunky Obie (obey), who hates and admires Archie, and Father Leon (Lion), a hateful, power hungry, sadistic man, he makes his evil plans. In Archie's quest for absolute control and power, he must break the will of Jerry Renault, who has dared to defy him with his new-found belief that, "Do I dare to disturb the universe?" Maybe I do dare. Robert Cormier's ability to create psychological scenarios takes a great amount of skill and talent to keep the story interesting, believable and flowing. The author lets us peek into the minds of the many charaters, helping us to discover what makes them tick. Despite the violence and sexual remarks adults will find in it, this book transcends those things adults may find objectionable. It illuminates some very important issures about life that we often are too inhibited to talk about such as masturbation, peer pressure, violence and death. This book will relate to young adult readers. One of the most importan issures focuses on the fact that people should stand up for themselves when they know they are right. People acting like sheep allowed the Nazis and Hitler to take control of Germany and kill millions of Jews. It is also true that street gangs which are prevalent in today's society can be just as vicious, using the same tactics as the Nazis. This book can also be looked at on a religious level. At the end of the book the reader can see where Jerry can be viewed as Christ being sacrificed on the cross. There also have been other passages that made reference to religion, such as parting of the student as if Moses was parting the Red Sea. Also I felt that Goober could have been Paul when he shut himself off from Jerry when things started to get tuff. But he was there in the end of the book for Jerry after he had been severely beaten. Janza could be viewed as the Roman soldier or the SS for Hitler. Either way he enjoyed inflicting pain, in a perverse way. Robert Cormier does not end his book on a happy note. By making the ending so graphic and violent, it forces the reader to doubt Jerry's decision to refuse to sell the candy at all cost. The reader is forced to take a hard look at the wisdom of Jerry's decision. Did he do the right thing or not? I think he di

cruelty and conformity share this bleak novel

I feel I need to defend this novel, especially after the plethora of negative reviews.Often in childrens/YA novels good v. evil is played out in fantasy terms, (witches, demons, etc.) but this novel disturbs the universe and places real people in real situations. A freshman at a private high school decides to "disturb the universe", and soon realizes that he may have overstepped his bounds. The shifting narrative is very distinct and unique, yet sometimes confusing. This is a great novel for classroom discussion with some strong themes: to include, courage & cowardice, peer pressure, victimization, individualism, good v. evil and god and religion. The ending is unconventional and truely climatic, can you remember when you first realized that life is not fair, and sometimes doesn't come close to being fair? This book opened up the new genre of YA literature, and Cormier certainly "disturbed the universe" with its publication. This book is constantly under the eye of parent groups who would like to see it "banned" or placed on a restricted list(recently under pressure from a parent's group here in VA)...because that is the case, it should be required reading for all teenagers. If you are younger, you may want to read Spinelli's WRINGER: a story so foul, so horrifying with peer pressure that it should be shelved next to Cormier's The Chocolate War.As a children's librarian, I will continue to offer Cormier's books because he refuses to compromise the truth as he sees it. For an indepth look at Cormier's writing try: PRESENTING ROBERT CORMIER Twayne Publishers

The Chocolate War Mentions in Our Blog

The Chocolate War in Celebrating Banned Books During Banned Books Week
Celebrating Banned Books During Banned Books Week
Published by Karen DeGroot Carter • September 27, 2020

Since its launch in 1982, Banned Books Week has helped raise awareness of the many literary works that have been banned and/or challenged by individuals and groups across the U.S. through the years. To start the week off, let's take a look at some of the most frequently-challeneged or removed books from the last 20 years.

The Chocolate War in In Honor of Banned Books Week, Let's Ban Banning Books Once and for All
In Honor of Banned Books Week, Let's Ban Banning Books Once and for All
Published by Beth Clark • September 24, 2018

Okay, maybe we can’t eliminate censorship (yet...#goals), but we can celebrate Banned Books Week with gusto by reading all of the stories that someone (or someones) tried to silence, destroy, or restrict access to. Here are 50 of the most frequently banned and/or most recently challenged books, along with the "who, why, and how" of literary censorship in America.

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