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.
A New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year An ALA Best Book for Young Adults A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
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.
This is one of my favorite books. I never read it as a kid, but I've read it several times now as an adult and it's still so beautiful. The writing is stark and concise, and so is the story, which is one of the most difficult plots to describe. This is one of those where you talk about the theme more than the actual story: "It's the best book about good and evil that exists," you tell someone, after trying to outline a chocolate sale at a religious boy's school that ends in a sadistic boxing fight.
I read an interview in which Cormier was asked if he thought the lesson is too dark, and he said that it's just the truth. The world is evil and there's nothing you can do about it, but he thought that trying to fight against it is the most important thing you can do, even though you're going to fail anyway.
On a side note, I met him once before he passed away, and he was not what I expected. For someone who writes such dark stuff, it was shocking to meet someone who may have actually been Santa Claus! He was the sort of guy who must have been someone's favorite grandpa.
“My name is Jerry Renault and I’m not going to sell the chocolates.”
The Chocolate War is probably one of those books that ends up getting a low rating since it gets crammed down the throats of high school kids in their literature classes. As the mother of a child who is currently being forced to read “a book about girls who do nothing but talk about cute guys” (Spoiler Alert: Marie Antoinette Serial Killer), I WISH his required reading was something this good. That’s probably why it’s on the Top Banned Books list, right? Can’t have those tiny minds actually used for thinking . . .
The Chocolate War is a story about life at an all boys high school. It deals with conforming and not conforming and hazing and trying to fit in and attempting to stand out and sticking it to the man and most of all teaches the lesson . . . .
The cast of characters runs the spectrum from the bully to the bullied, from nerds to the jocks, Freshmen to Seniors, and most importantly, the one who decided to ask himself . . . .
“Do I dare disturb the universe? Yes, I do. I do. I think.”
I grew up in the next town over from where Robert Cormier lived. They were nothing towns. We went to the same college. It was a nothing college. But here was this writer with a famous book from my neighborhood! Sooner or later I had to read this.
The Chocolate War is about boys at an all-boys Catholic prep school forming cliques and getting their kicks by kicking the shit out of their fellow students mentally and physically. This could've been an English novel.
Cormier does an excellent job at capturing the hell and ridiculousness that is high school: the plot revolves around selling chocolates and yet, there will be blood. Honestly, Cormier did too good a job capturing the least favorite part of my life. Don't get me wrong, while I came in for my fair share of abuse in high school, I wasn't overtly targeted. And still, I loathed those days. The petty fights over the stupidest shit, the condescension of the overlords teachers, threats from all sides, being treated like a child because my fellow students were acting like children...shudder. I couldn't wait to leave. I'd be lying if I said my hatred of high school didn't taint my enjoyment of this book. I don't want to relive those memories!
The Chocolate War is not a bad book. My three-star rating might've been a four. It was see-sawing between the two. But I went with three, because the writing is mostly solid and great in spots. The plot is okay, but it lacks the grab-ya quality needed to sustain the tension and tease out the suspense through out. Teen angst only holds my interest for so long. When I sat back after finishing, I saw I'd read a competent book that had moved me a little, but one that I would soon move on from.
I can't see this being added to anyone's all-time favorites list, so why is it so popular? Well, this is one of those lucky books that was originally written for adults, but got picked up by a lot of kids, so it was moved from the regular fiction section to the young adults section....and then the "authorities" were alerted to the fact that naughty things happen in the book and so they banned it, thus ensuring its everlasting fame and that more kids would read it than probably would've otherwise. Good work, dumbass authority!
I know this is considered important juv. lit. and amazing, but I disliked it very much. I can recognize that the whole point was to make you hate the fact that there is evil in the world and even you can become desensitized or mentally manipulated (the author is manipulating the reader, overall, and wants the reader to finally recognize it and question it at the end). However, this book portrays women as nothing but sex-objects (only briefly bringing women or girls into the picture for this purpose), and depicts self-pleasure as normal for teen-age boys, as if they couldn't possibly resist sexual urges. I would say that at least a contrast between those that have self-control and those that don't would have made it more realistic to me. If I had read this as a teenage girl, I probably would have felt very degraded and offended (I felt some of that as an adult female reading it actually).
What a interesting and strange little book! I read it because I remembered hearing about people reading it back when I was in middle school/high school. I think it may have been required reading for some English classes, but I am not sure. It definitely has the feel of some other books I had to read for school (specifically Lord of the Flies) and I could see it appealing to a teenager more than some of the other required reading we had.
This book was released in 1974 and has to be one of the earliest specifically Young Adult novels. The Author even mentions that when he wrote it the amount of books written to interest teenagers is small. So, if you are a Young Adult fan, this is your history and worth checking out!
I said in my first paragraph that this book was strange, but it is strange in a good way. While written in the realistic setting of an all boys school, most of the things that happen are very outlandish and unbelievable. In fact, it almost reads like a teenage boy's creative writing project. Very entertaining, but don't go into it looking for a believable story.
Want a quick, fun read that goes back to the origins of one of the most popular reading genres? Here it is!
So I'm doing this thing where I reread some of the books that made a big impression on me as a teen. I'm calling it the "literary sad girl canon" because it's basically a collection of depressive and precocious mopey teen lit, because I was a depressive and precocious mopey teen, and I REALLY wish Goodreads had been around when I was a kid, because if someone had put together a list like this for ME back then, I probably would have dissolved into weepy tears of gratitude.
THE CHOCOLATE WAR is a really intense book that kind of looks at the innate predilections for cruelty that dwell within team boys. If you've read LORD OF THE FLIES or THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE, you will know what to expect. If you haven't, then you might be one of the one-star reviews for this book bemoaning the fact that somebody wrote this without first thinking of the children! I kid, but seriously. The way Cormier dissected the psyches of the kids-- and adults-- in this story gave me chills the first time I read it, and it still left me feeling cold even now. It's brutal. Especially the ending.
The premise is simple. At a Christian all boys' school, there is a fund-raiser being held where the boys have to sell chocolates. One of the unscrupulous Brothers ordered twice as many as normal (in what smacks of a fraudulent racket) and has enlisted the school's secret society to aid him in selling the chocolates. At the same time, Jerry Renault, one of the new boys, has landed on the secret society's radar for holding his head too high. When a prank goes too far, and pride reaches its stretching points, Jerry finds himself facing down against not just the secret society... but also the whole school.
I guess how much you enjoy this book will depend on your need for stories that have a life-affirming world-view. THE CHOCOLATE WAR portrays a world where evil often triumphs and even though that's sometimes true, I think it's something a lot of us wish wasn't true, and might not want to read about in books (judging by some of the reviews). I personally really liked it and I am surprised it was a banned book because it doesn't seem that much worse than other things I have read, but as a character study and a tightly-paced thriller, it's fascinating and doesn't condescend to its audience.
Do I dare disturb the universe? from a poster that hangs in Jerry Renault's school locker
My youngest son started high school this year, and while that makes me feel old, old, OLD, I'm relieved that for the first time since kindergarten, he is not expected to sell stuff for his school. This year, I will not be forced to buy any crappy wrapping paper, or magazine subscriptions, or any overpriced chocolate for Easter. This is all voluntary, of course. Children don't have to participate. But they are certainly encouraged to do so. Much like in...
The Chocolate War. Each student is expected to sell fifty boxes of chocolate. And, as Brother Leon points out, "the sale is strictly voluntary." But that turns out not to be true, and when Jerry Renault refuses to sell the candy, a whole new game of bullying and coercion begins.
School is all about learning lessons, and there are many to be learned in this book. Power corrupts. Disturbing the universe may bring painful consequences. And as one student learns, ...he had allowed Brother Leon to blackmail him. If teachers did this kind of thing, what kind of world could it be?
As to why this made the American Library Association's Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books - http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/fr... - I assume it has something to do with the fact that the young men in this book occasionally masturbate, which we all know teenage boys would NEVER DREAM OF DOING without this filthy book putting that idea in their heads.
Not to boast, but for almost the past 15 years I've read more than a hundred books a year. I only mention that fact to show the relatively late start that I got on serious reading. Sure I read quite a bit when I was younger, but I kind of went from reading Encyclopedia Brown and The Hardy Boys straight to reading god-awful books about commandos and then to a steady diet of Horror. I wanted to read better books, but I had no guidance in the matter and from my experiences with Literature in High School most every classic I encountered got mangled and ruined by incompetent teachers. So for a really long time I read crap, sprinkled every now and then with something good like Salinger or Orwell.
The point of this statement is that I felt deficient in the breadth of my reading for quite awhile. I made it up for it with a huge gusto of reading anything I could get my hands on when I was about 21, but I still felt like so much precious time had been missed when I could have gotten so much more reading done. Nowadays I don't feel so lacking in what I have or have not read but there is one area that I do no nothing about and that is Young Adult literature.
I never read Young Adult literature as a young adult, or I should say teenager, since I don't think I've reached adulthood yet, nevermind ever being a young adult. When I was the age for reading these books I was slogging through a Bourne novel, or reading semi-homoerotic vampire tales all centering around someone named Lestat. I did briefly dip my toe in the YA world with The Outsiders and those awful lies Jay's Journal and Go Ask Alice, but that was it.
I wish I had read this novel when I was about twelve or thirteen years old. I would have loved it. It's got the cool stuff that I liked about Lord of the Flies (before the teachers got their hands on it), but with more of a point that I could have related to. I know my teenage self would have loved this book, that is why I gave it five stars. My nearing middle-aged self is as blown away by it as I would have been, but I have to admit to thinking it's still a pretty great book.
There is a 'dirtiness' to the book that I think might be gratuitous, but maybe mentioned jacking off on the first page is a way to capture the reluctant teen readers attention. I can see why uptight parents and school boards would try to ban the book, not that I agree, but yeah there is some stuff that I was surprised at finding in a book that is being aimed to teenagers. Then again I might just be living in a fantasy world of what makes a novel a teen novel. I might be confusing them too much with children books.
At the novels best moments it reminds me a lot of the late 1960's movie starring Malcolm McDowell If..., an amazing movie that I recommend everyone see as soon as possible. Both being excellent depictions of the cruelty of adolescence.
My only real complaint is that a couple of themes are brought into the novel early on and then just kind of left hanging there. As a mature reader I picked up on where the author was heading with the themes, and didn't need for them to be returned to later on in the novel, but would a teen need to have them more explicitly brought out? I don't know, I appreciated that the author didn't really hit the reader hard with the Nazi stuff he mentions early on, but did he treat the theme too much in passing? I don't know, maybe I will learn this in the class this summer, or maybe I will just be contrarian to any discussion about the book and argue the side that seems most unpopular (will we even discuss themes? what do library classes talk about when they read novels?). My other complaint is about how the big reversal comes about in the book. I don't want to say much more, but it seems like the author didn't know how to make the school body change their outlook, so just kind of said that they did. It's ok that he did this, because he handled so many other things in the book with quite a bit of sophistication for a book that reads really simply.
Here's the deal people, yesterday I was heating up my lunch in the kitchenette at work and had this book with me (because I was planning to read during lunch) and another woman asks me what the book is about. I tell her it's the story of this kid who refuses to sell chocolates at his high school, and then I realize that this sounds like the stupidest book in the world--why would anyone care about reading about fund-raising? I'll tell you why ladies and gentleman--because this book isn't about a chocolate sale, it's about peer pressure, conformity, and the difference that one individual can make in any given situation.
Cormier's novel is brilliant--the dialogue and writing regarding perceptions of others' motivations is sharp and incisive. Cormier writes in third person and allows us to glimpse into the minds and hearts of characters with a myriad of motivations. Most remarkable is how nearly everyone who is an antagonist in this story (Archie and the school bully Emile Janza) use their manipulation and intimidation as a facade to hide their true personalities. The only antagonist we don't get to look inside is Brother Leon, but we're given some backstory on his motivations that is interesting.
What I appreciate about the antagonists in this story is that Cormier is unflinching in their evil--he doesn't "clean them up" in the end, they don't learn their lesson, they actually come out completely unscathed. That's a hard pill for someone like me, an eternal optimist who believes there must be something redeeming in everyone, to swallow. It makes me think about what Cormier's psychology of society must have been like, and how that affected his life. Which leads me to realize that there are people out there who have a different definition of the total depravity of man, and to consider how that influences them and their dealings with me. (I love a story that makes me think about life and interactions, which is why The Chocolate War is so much more than a story about a chocolate sale.)
There is one primary protagonist (Jerry Renault) in this story, but there are other characters who try to defy the corruption on their own level--two of the Vigils (Obie and Carter) try to impact the Universe as does Jerry's friend, the Goober, in his own way. Again, we're learning about psychology here, folks--you may not be leading the revolution, but we can all do our part to fight corruption and evil in the world. At the least, we can refuse to participate in mistreatment. I'm not talking high-and-lofty stuff like the situation in Darfur here (although that's necessary), I'm talking about the way you view others, how you judge the people you work/live/learn with and how your pre-conceived notions of their motivations and backstory influence the way you treat them. If anything, Cormier wants us to learn that we don't know why people do the things they do, what has happened in their past, and we need to develop connections with people before making unfounded assumptions about their value or worth as an individual. Pretty cool stuff for a story about candy, eh?
This story was deep and rich (kind of like the best-tasting chocolates coincidentally), and the characters were so well constructed. I wonder at the end what happens to Emile, Obie and Carter, but I don't get my answers and, surprisingly, that's okay with me.
I had to give an A rating, rather than A+, because I can't be a hypocrite... if you don't know what that's in reference to, check out my review of Looking for Alaska, and read paragraphs 4 and 5 about the language in this book. I hate to do it, but I have to for the sake of consistency.
This book is one of the most censored books in the country for young adults. I read it for my censorship lesson for my lit class and I was honestly frightened of what I would find but it was easily one of the most haunting and well-written books I have ever read. Cormier is a genius of writing with layers. It's a deceptively easy read; easy in that I finished it in 2 days, deceptive in that I could read it again and come away reading something different.
Brother Leon is truly evil. His example with Bailey and comparing the class to Nazi Germany is ironic given that he is the most like Hitler and creates a mini Nazi Germany within the walls of his own high school. He is everything that a Catholic "Brother" is not.
There is so much involved with this novel that young adults could truly benefit from. It is stark and open and brutally honest and completely uncomfortable. Jerry's thoughts at the end are heartbreaking, "They tell you to do your thing but they don't mean it. They don't want you to do your thing, not unless it happens to be their thing, too. It's a laugh, Goober, a fake. Don't disturb the universe, Goober, no matter what the posters say."
Always looking for new and exciting ways to approach my reading challenges, I turned to Robert Cormier’s book all about the battle to conform to a larger power or stand up and buck the trend. Jerry Renault enjoys his time at Trinity Boys’ School, particularly when on the football field. He is still learning the ins and outs of the academy, where there is a definite hierarchy amongst the boys, depending on their age. When it is time for the annual fundraising drive, chocolate bars are again the primary means of earning capital. An exuberant acting headmaster decides to double the requirement for each boy and ups the price as well. When each boy is to pledge a minimum number of boxes, Renault refuses in front of the entire group. Not deterred, others agree to sell and the fundraising begins. However, as sales trickle in and many boys announce their progress, Renault is happy to turn his back on selling anything for Trinity. This begins a trickle-down effect and soon other boys are protesting the need to churn out sales for an institution that already takes in a large tuition. Jerry Renault will prove that conformity is not a class in which he chooses to enrol himself, even if it costs him a spot at Trinity. It may cost him more, if the core ‘gang’ within the school chooses to act. A wonderful novel about the epiphany surrounding individuality of a boy who learns what it is like to be a man in the face of adversity. Cormier does well with what he calls his first young adult novel. Recommended to those who need a shorter piece to fill a bit of their time, as well as though who enjoy YA books with a moral and a little meat to the narrative.
I believe the first time this novel was brought to my attention was when my father was prepping for his junior high English classes one summer. He wanted to teach something to his students that packed a punch and offered a message. When I saw the word ‘chocolate’, I could only think that this was a book that would pit Willy Wonka against someone else trying to rule the cocoa empire. Years later, when I found myself in the middle of this book, things all seem to come together. Jerry Renault is the kid who can be taken two ways. Someone who chooses to defy what is asked of them simply to get a rise out of others. This is the person who simply wants to be known for yelling ‘no’ for notoriety. On the flip side, someone who takes a stand for a fundamental belief and does not let peer or outside pressure dictate being a follower. Renault is like any other boy at Trinity, save that he has decided to do what he feels is right, no matter what others tell him. The reader will see this throughout, particularly when threatened from all sides to conform. Other characters in the book help to push for the narrative forward, while also shedding light onto what it means to grow up under the thumb of Trinity school. Athletics, academics, and social pressures come from all sides, as well as the banter to meet girls and not ogle them too much. Cormier does a masterful job at creating characters to whom the young adult reader can relate, while still providing some key messages throughout. The story remained strong, with a number of themes that are easily discernible without being too blunt. Cormier mentioned that he based the piece on his own son and a choice not to sell for a fundraiser, choosing to put onto paper many of the concerns that came to mind. I feel this was done effectively and helped to shape the argument through the eyes of a teenager. Wth short chapters and poignant plot advancements throughout, Robert Cormier sets the stage for a few novels in this series that I will have to revisit, when time permits.
Kudos, Mr. Cormier, for a great piece that left me hungering for more, both reading and sweets!
This book fulfils Topic #4: Delectable Reading in the Equinox #9 Reading Challenge.
The bleak viciousness that is this novel made me really really anxious and depressed. I couldn’t wait until it was over. I skimmed the whole final chapter and I've been doing my breathing exercises for the past couple of hours to rid myself of the bad chemicals that are pumping through my body.
Ultimately this book is about:
How evil pervades
How pacifism is ultimately a violent act
Martyrdom gets you nowhere
How vicious children really are
Writing a vicious book about viciousness that assaults the reader doesnt make the world a better place
A neat little construct of macrocosm within the microcosm of a high school. Definitely a book that all teenagers should read, however this worn out, paranoid and depressed Gen-yer found it to reiterate stuff that she no longer wants to think about. That and high school was an entirely traumatising experience for me that I'll never be keen to relive.
I cant disentangle my own feelings that were elicited from this book to give it a proper 'review'. Did I like reading it? No. Couldn't wait for it to be over? Yes. Would I read it again? Absolutely not. I guess a book that delivers such strong feelings can be seen as 'powerful' but for what end I don’t know.
On a technical level its very well written, nice tight scripted language. I couldn’t help but see Dick Cheney's face whenever the lead bully "Archie" spoke though. I brings up the age old "all power corrupts" thing and plays it well. Most of the people were evil before they even had any power.
A sickening read. I think "Lord of the Flies" conveys the same message but in an immensely less suicidal way.
Oh god. You know? I honestly wish I could remember cool things from high school English, but whenever my roommate and I embark down memory lane, all I whine about is this book. What can I say about "The Chocolate War?" (Spoilers ahead, folks!)
It stinks. No seriously. Jerry's musings about "disturbing the universe" (poor T.S. Eliot) put me to sleep and I honestly couldn't wait for the school's secret society to knock the ever lovin' crap out of him. I may also be missing some grand message, but I honestly don't get why this book was published... I mean, there's this secret society that RULES the school and what does Jerry do? Refuses to sell their damn chocolate and gets into a boxing match as a result, where he's pulverized. I'm all for people standing up for their beliefs and everything, but it's not as if the Vigils wanted Jerry to go on a crusade to murder kitties and puppies. Whatever. Maybe I'm getting something wrong here, because I tried to block out as much as I could about "The Chocolate War."
I'm not a prude (have you SEEN some of the books I've read) but the sexual frustration present in this novel did nothing for me. I'll go with the shallow reason and say it was because I did not want to think about Jerry's or Archie's or this random boy's desire to bone someone into the next world. *shudders*
Also I think part of my seething hatred stems from the fact that I attended a private Catholic prep school much like the one in "The Chocolate War." Imagine that!
Disturbing My Universe (A Book Review of The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier)
I’m writing this review in anguish and in tears.
At first I couldn’t imagine myself getting interested about this kid who refuses to sell chocolates during a school’s annual fund-raising event. But as the pages were turned all too quickly, I find myself deeply engrossed, on the edge of my seat, clinging on to every word, anticipating each chapter with bated breath. I suppose The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier eludes description; as if to summarize it was a gross disrespect to you who’s reading this review in case you want to pick this book up because I want you to suffer the same anguish that I felt, to cry the same tears I shed after reading this brilliant masterpiece. It is a book that boldly challenges us about the folly of conformity and peer pressure. It dares us to courageously face the question: “How can we resist?”
For the life of me, I just can’t imagine how I would’ve reacted to this book should I happen to read it during my teens. Now I know why this book has been constantly attacked by censors and one of the most banned and challenged books in America. But its protagonist’s sexual musings is just the tipped of the ice burg. This is not your regular YA book for it does not concern itself on the banal matters adolescence grapple with but on the resonating psychological and moral issues of the larger human condition. The book’s climax and its “uncompromising ending” will jolt you, shatter you, and break you. Like The Lord of the Flies it is a work of stunning impact about the monstrous and unfathomable power of evil; a book that will linger with you long after you close its pages, an unforgettable story in every measure.
Right now I’m still thinking of them. Archie, Emile and Brother Leon. It staggers the mind thinking how more are they capable of for I think the book has only given me a glimpse of what they can do. Their clutches far exceeds the prep school they inhabit for their very presence is palpable; if you would just give a pittance of attention in your surrounding you’ll know what I’m saying.
Most of all I think of Jerry. How he profoundly affected me, how his story has become a part of me; the one who taught me that to resist is to assist; the one who dared me to disturb my universe. And right I now I’m still uncertain how will I do so, for the fear of the consequences of my action haunts me. What will I gain if do defy the status quo?
Only when we a make choice and stood firm on our conviction do we gain hold of our humanity in spite of inexorable defeat. But if humans have the courage to stand together with the aid of self-transcending strength and love perhaps good can win.
As I wrap up this review my eyes wander at the bar of Hershey’s chocolate at my side. I know eating it will bring a bitter sweet solace.
_______________ Published by Dell-Laurel Leaf (Mass Market Paperback, 2000 Edition) 263 Pages Started: June 4, 2010 Finished: June 6, 2010 My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
I had to teach this book as a high school teacher. It was hard selling it to the kids because I really hated it myself. The problem is that Cormier is writing a book that just doesn't succeed on any level.
SHOCK LEVEL -- no, it doesn't shock. It's not like A CLOCKWORK ORANGE where the violence is over the top, sensational, and terrifying. These kids are more like whiners and snitches who react to verbal taunts with elaborate schemes and weird paranoia rather than actual fistfights.
BUDDY MOVIE -- no, there are no buddies. It's not like THE OUTSIDERS because neither the hero nor any of the villains have any real interest in sticking together. Everyone betrays everyone else at the drop of a chocolate bar, over stakes that are never quite explained.
SOCIAL COMMENTARY -- no, there are no important social issues explored in any coherent fashion. One has a vague sense that this story is happening towards the end of the Sixties, yet oddly, the boys never mention drugs or allude to the fact that kids are getting high all over the place. They're all like boys in a big plastic bubble. For reasons that are never explained.
RELIGION -- this is a Catholic school, and it's rendered as a very ugly place. But there's no discussion of how church teachings have twisted the minds of the boys, or the brothers. There's also no religious hostility (or racial hostility) directed against boys from other parts of town. It's hard to believe these are real Catholic kids since they never allude to having rival groups or feeling like there are people in other neighborhoods they want to kill. They spend most of the time spying on each other.
The Chocolate War is probably Robert Cormier's best known novel - and certainly his most controversial one. First published in 1974, it has since been frequently challenged and banned in many schools and libraries in the US, and forty years after its publication remains very high on the most frequently censored books.
The novel is set at Trinity School, an all-male Catholic preparatory high school, and focuses on Jerry Renault - one of the freshmen. Jerry is a quiet, reserved boy, silently coping with the recent death of his mother. Her passing has also deeply affected Jerry's father, throwing him straight into depression which made him unable to help Jerry through time difficult for any boy. Jerry struggles with trying to understand who he is, copes with growing up without a mother and with a absent father, and experiences all the pains and tribulations of being a teenager. Everything seems to be going well - he's recruited by the school's football team, where he makes a new friend - until one day Jerry is approached by Archie Costello, a representative of The Vigils - Trinity's secret society. The Vigils specialize in creating "assignments" for new students, which range from simple jokes to cruel, elaborate pranks.
Although the faculty is aware of the existence of a school gang, it doesn't acknowledge it in the open - giving a clandestine consent for its actions, which new students have no choice but to accept. After his friend was chosen for a prank involving dismantling furniture in one of the classrooms, Jerry is selected for another - his assignment is to refuse to participate in selling chocolates for the school's annual fundraiser, and kept refusing for ten days. Archie crafted this assignment to annoy and humiliate Brother Leon, an ambitious acting headmaster for whom the sale reflects a private goal. Although participation in the sale is voluntary, Leon bullies and manipulates his students into taking part. He personally orders everyone to sell twice as many chocolates for twice the price of the last year's event - and who has met privately with Archie, and requested help of his influential friends in this very matter. Jerry is compliant with the vigils and refuses to sell chocolates, provoking Leon's anger but also sympathy from fellow classmates. However, after the tenth day Jerry surprises himself and once again refuses to sell his chocolates, defying both Brother Leon and The Vigils. Despite the growing pressure, Jerry consistently refuses to give in to their demands, and the situation quickly escalates as other students start to look up to him.
Unlike other Cormier novels that I've read, which are mostly narrated from the perspective of the main protagonist, The Chocolate War features several different viewpoints - it's particularly useful to illustrate the complex manipulation and psychological warfare carried on within Trinity. For most of the book there is little actual violence, and the pressure on Jerry and other students is inflicted purely through psychological tactics and scheming - traumatizing and humiliating experiences aimed at inducing paranoia and constant fear, which would result in obedience. Jerry's individual defiance and stoicism results in his ostracization as a result of a campaign against him carried on by The Vigils, but his resolve seems to only grow stronger, as he understand that ultimately this is the only thing that can't be taken away from him. He clings to one thing that he has control over, and which can't be taken away by a school gang or corrupted faculty. The main question that the novel asks is of course this: is it worth it? How much are we willing to fight and give to protect our beliefs? What are the consequences of disturbing the universe we don't agree with?
This is a very dark book which could be a good introduction to many topics: bullying, corruption, cronyism, conformism and resistance, mob mentality and the abuse of authority. This is unsentimental and often painful reading and it's also heartbreaking, but necessarily so - I couldn't imagine it being any other way, because if it was then it'd be a betrayal of itself. Adults who tried to ban the book would do better by reading and talking about it with their children, as any teenager would instantly recognize the hierarchy and structure of the novel from their own experience. The Chocolate War succeeds in turning Trinity into a microcosm of social relations, all over a seemingly banal conflict - but the book is anything but banal, and that's why it continues to be read 40 years after its first publication.
I Did not like this book at all. I had to force myself to finish it just because I hate leaving books unfinished. It is a story about a chocolate sale at a private boys prep school. The action revolves around one evil bully, an equally evil and manipulative teacher and their victim. I find it extremely unbelievable that one teenage boy could have as much power as the bully in this story does. The plot was completely ridiculous. I did not care for the theme of the book or most of the action of the book. Much of it was obscene and lacked any good morals what so ever. After reading this cynical and dark story I need to go find something light, fun and easy to read just so I can wash this book out of my brain. Don't waste your time. Read something better.
"They don't actually want you to do your thing, not unless it's their thing too."
Every year Trinity Boy's School runs a chocolate sale. Each boy 'volunteers' to sell a quota of boxes in a fund-raising effort that is also a display of 'school spirit'. But this year is different, because new boy Jerry Renault has refused to take part. Initially he does so for ten days at the command of a secretive student group the 'Vigils' but once those ten days up he decides unilaterally to continue with his stance.
This book was first published in 1974 and has spent most of it's time since on the 'top 10 banned books list' in American schools because of it's content, in part sexual (masturbation), in part religious (it is a Catholic school and some of the teachers are good and some are bad) but mainly because it features bullying.
The book is relatively short but packs a punch. It features some of the best and worst facets of human nature. Jerry is idealistic, Archie is egocentric, Brother Leon is manipulative abusive whilst Goober who is privately supportive of Jerry's choice isn't willing to do so publicly and Carter has a false sense of control.
I found that I had a love/hate relationship with this book. I loved the way that it sucked me in, made me think and how I struggled to put it down. I hated the fact that Cormier felt the need to write it, I hated the fact that the story was realistic and represented real life for some students the world over, I hated the fact that Jerry's ostracization was easy to relate to, I hated the mob-like attitude of the other students, I hated the fact that even the 'good' teachers were willing to intervene, I hated how disturbing the norm was shown to be dangerous and brave but most of all I hated being asked if I would have been strong enough to say 'NO'. The book ended inconclusively despite my fervent hoping that somehow Jerry would gain some sort of reprieve and hating the fact that it had to do so to be realistic.
Personally I would have liked to have seen a little more in depth characterisation but despite being many decades beyond the book's intended market audience I found it a powerful and moving piece that made me sit up and think, as such I would highly recommend it. However, I doubt that I will read the sequel in the fear that it won't be as good.
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier is in my top five favorite novels of all time and is definitely the best book I have read this year so far. The book shows us the cruelty of people and the amazing power of intimidation both by students and by teachers. The story concerns a Catholic school for boys which embarks on a massive chocolate sale mainly controlled by Brother Leon, who uses what he calls school spirit to try and get the students to sell all 20,000 boxes. Jerry, our young protagonist, is ordered by the Vigils (a gang of students who make cruel assignments for the other students to carry out( to refuse to sell. He does so for the ten days that the Vigils command him to refuse, but when he continues to say no due to lack of “school spirit,” the school turns against him in a brutal but clever usage of power by the Vigils. This novel is considered a YA book and I agree in a way, but it is one of the most cruel novels I’ve ever read and one of the scariest as well. It isn’t horror in the blood or the monster sense, but rather the horror of what some people will do to each other, especially young adults. Every familiar plot twist that you might think is coming doesn’t. The book is stunningly original and brilliant. It is perfect in every way and I wish I was more talented at writing reviews so I could do it justice. I recommend it to anyone no matter what genre you prefer.
Lean and mean, great allegorical writing; for me, what happens at Trinity is Nazi Europe in a nutshell -- it's easy to see the Vigils all growed up and goose-kicking their way through murder and mayhem. Evil exists in even the most innocuous, seemingly innocent places...like a prep school, and the preppie students who go there. A little power can fuel a lot of misdeeds and looking the other way is how evil wins. While I feel this book has a lot to offer, especially for its intended audience, and remains relevant even for today's teens, it falls short of Lord of the Flies, one of the most important books ever written, one of the best stories ever told.
When I started reading this book, I was wondering to myself about why this book was banned in so many schools. Now, I know why. “The Chocolate War” is a popular young adult book by Robert Cormier and it is about how a young teenage boy named Jerry Renault refuses to sell chocolates at his school, Trinity and how he faces some hardships from Brother Leon and the Vigils because of his defiance. “The Chocolate War” might be a bit too disturbing and dark from some people, but this book is clearly one of the most memorable banned books ever written!
Oh my goodness! When I first heard about this book, I thought it was simply going to be about a group of kids fighting over who should eat the chocolates. But then, when I got around to reading this book, I realized that this book was all about the cruelties of the world such as manipulating various students into selling chocolates, even if you do not want to sell the chocolates and the consequences if you step out of line from the rest of the student body. Robert Cormier has certainly done an excellent job at making this book extremely disturbing and dark as he cleverly builds up tension around Jerry Renault’s defiance against selling the chocolates at the chocolate sale. The true highlights of this book were the characters themselves as they are realistic in personalities that you would normally see at any high school. Jerry Renault plays the underdog hero in this book as he tries to defend his stance in not selling the chocolates since he believes everyone has the right to do what you think is right and as it happens to every hero, he goes through so much hardship and danger when he defies the rules of Trinity. I find myself liking Jerry so much in this book since he tries hard to defend his rights, even if the other students do not believe in him and I love the idea that people will try to defend themselves when they believe that the activities set for them are not right for them. Some other interesting characters in this book are Archie Costello, the leader of the Vigils and Brother Leon. You will never know a truly terrible villain in any book until you read about what Brother Leon and Archie Costello has done to so many people in this book. Both Brother Leon and Archie Costello are truly frightening characters as they use manipulation and cruelty to get what they want from the school, to the point of using violence to get what they want.
Some people might have a problem with this book as it is extremely dark and disturbing and there is also extreme violence in this book, especially towards of the end of the book and that might not sit too well with people who do not like violence. Another problem that most people might have with this book is the language as this book has strong language and many people might be sensitive about such strong language being used. Probably, the reason why this book is dark and disturbing is because it was told from a villain’s point of view, which is either Archie or Brother Leon and in most books or movies that are told from a villain’s perspective of the world are usually dark and disturbing (well, except for certain movies or books where the villain is a bumbling fool and the story is more like a comedy or dark comedy rather than a horror story, like the cartoon series “Invader Zim” for example, where the story is told from a villain’s point of view, but is still hilarious to watch.
Now for the reason why “The Chocolate War” was banned in so many schools. “The Chocolate War” was one of the most banned books in history because of its strong profanity, some sexual discussions, extreme violence, and the theme of bribery and manipulation being used in a negative way (that is a lot of reasons, is it not?) However, I did enjoy this book because of the original and exciting plot, even though it felt like the ending was a bit “incomplete” meaning that so much more could have been said about the event that concluded the book. Hopefully, the sequel, “Beyond the Chocolate War,” might conclude this book more properly, so that is definitely one of the books that are worth checking out. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves reading books from the villain’s point of view and love reading banned books.
The master. The greatest. What can I say about Robert Cormier that so many before have not already declared? Yet it still seems to fall short of the mark. There is an internal tenseness that one gets when even thinking about reading a Robert Cormier book, that is unlike the effect of any other writer. You can't count on everything turning out all right in the end, the protagonist being led through extended difficulties to a place of greater knowledge and peace with themselves. You really never know what is going to happen in a Robert Cormier story until you've read the final word, that bone-chilling moment when it all clicks into place and The Master releases you from his grasp.
The Chocolate War is one of those books that are frequently pointed to as an example of how easy it is for publishers to miss out on a rare literary jewel; reportedly, it was turned down by a long line of publishers before someone astute decided that it was a good investment to bet on this gripping, edgy story and its author Robert Cormier. Since then, it has sold staggering numbers of copies and is considered a classic of young adult lit.
The theme of The Chocolate War isn't really obvious. Robert Cormier never compromises gritty realism for the sake of tying up a neat lesson with a fancy ribbon, but instead lets us peer into the murky darkness of human nature for ourselves and learn whatever we might be ready to learn from the story. Still, I would say that more than anything else, The Chocolate War is a discomforting and electrifying warning: "disturb(ing) the universe" might seem like an attractive concept to us at times, but doing so comes with a forbidding price tag, a price tag that increases with just how extensively we want to make our mark. In the words of one character in the book, "They tell you to do your thing but they don't mean it. They don't want you to do your thing, not unless it happens to be their thing, too." We're encouraged as children to go out some day and really change the world, yet we have no idea how bad it can get if we follow through with our aspirations. But Robert Cormier knows...
As I progressed through The Chocolate War, the feeling within me never let up that every page I turned was taking me closer to impending cataclysm, and not in the same cathartic way as most books. In Robert Cormier novels, the sense of doom feels sickeningly real, nearly as upsetting to await and behold as if I were actually there in the story. It's spellbinding and haunting and beautiful and horrible, and it's almost impossible to describe to anyone who hasn't read the books for themselves. The Chocolate War is one of Robert Cormier's most resounding works, in my opinion, a potential mind-changer and life-changer that I'm sure will never lose its raw power through the passage of time. I would give it at least three and a half stars.
Αυτό είναι το πρώτο βιβλίο του Ρόμπερτ Κόρμιερ που διαβάζω και μάλιστα το πιο γνωστό και πολυσυζητημένο. Βλέπω ότι έχει απαγορευτεί σε πολλές σχολικές βιβλιοθήκες στις ΗΠΑ, πολλοί γονείς και δάσκαλοι έχουν κατηγορήσει το βιβλίο ως βίαιο, αισχρό (γιατί αναφέρονται σεξουαλικές φαντασιώσεις, ο αυνανισμός και κάποιες βρισιές) και ούτω καθεξής.
Και αναρωτιέμαι: Σοβαρολογούν; Εμένα το βιβλίο μου φάνηκε πολύ soft στο κομμάτι του αυνανισμού (ζήτημα αν αναφέρθηκε σε όλο το βιβλίο μια δυο φορές και για λίγες γραμμές) και των βρισιών (ζήτημα να πέτυχα είκοσι κακές λέξεις σε όλο το κείμενο, δηλαδή τα αγόρια μεταξύ τους μιλάνε με το σεις και με το σας;). Ναι αλλά είσαι εικοσιένα, θα μου πει κάποιος, και το βιβλίο έχει σαν target group τα αγόρια και κορίτσια ηλικίας δεκαπέντε-δεκαέξι ετών. Και πάλι τίποτα το συγκλονιστικό, τα ίδια θα έλεγα αν είχα διαβάσει το βιβλίο πριν πέντε χρόνια.
Ακόμα και για την εποχή και για την χώρα που γράφηκε, δεν μου φάνηκε σκληρό! Τα παιδιά αυτής της ηλικίας μπορούν να παίζουν αμερικάνικο ποδόσφαιρο σπάζοντας πόδια και κεφάλια, μπορούν να παίζουν ηλεκτρονικά παιχνίδια με πολέμους, σκοτωμούς, αίματα και ζόμπι, μπορούν να βλέπουν αντίστοιχες ταινίες και τους συγγενείς τους να πολεμάνε στο Ιράκ και το Αφγανιστάν, αλλά όχι να διαβάζουν το Ο πόλεμος της σοκολάτας γιατί στην σελίδα τάδε αναφέρεται η λέξη αυνανισμός! Έλα Χριστέ και Απόστολε...
Παρακολουθούμε μια σχολική χρονιά στο Καθολικό σχολείο αποκλειστικά για αγόρια Η Αγία Τριάδα. Ο Αδερφός Λιόν, καθηγητής και προσωρινά διευθυντής του σχολείου, έχει σαν στόχο να πουληθούν είκοσι χιλιάδες κουτιά σοκολάτας, έναντι δυο δολαρίων το καθένα, έτσι ώστε να λυθούν κάποια οικονομικά προβλήματα του σχολείου. Το κάθε παιδί πρέπει να πουλήσει πενήντα κουτιά, κάτι πολύ δύσκολο και όχι ευχάριστο για τους μαθητές. Ο Αδερφός Λιόν ζήτησε και από τον Άρτσι, αρχηγό των Σκοπιών, μιας ας το πούμε συμμορίας του σχολείου που οργανώνει πλάκες, παρενοχλεί μαθητές κλπ κλπ, να βοηθήσει στο όλο εγχείρημα. Βρίσκεται όμως ένας μαθητής που δεν θέλει να πουλήσει τα κουτιά, ο Τζέρι Ρενό. Στην αρχή το κάνει γιατί έχει πάρει Εντολή από τις Σκοπιές, αλλά όταν περνάνε οι μέρες και η Εντολή δεν ισχύει, αυτός συνεχίζει να μην θέλει. Αυτή του η άρνηση φαίνεται σαν να παρακούει τις Σκοπιές... Και βλέπουμε που οδηγεί η κατάχρηση εξουσίας, η δύναμη και η κακία...
Πολύ καλογραμμένο βιβλίο, ενδιαφέρον και ρεαλιστικότατο, με ζωντανούς χαρακτήρες και αληθινούς διαλόγους. Ό,τι πρέπει για τους έφηβους, μιας και περνάει πολλά μηνύματα για την κατάχρηση εξουσίας, τον έλεγχο πάνω στις μάζες και τον άνθρωπο ξεχωριστά, τους κανόνες κλπ κλπ, χρησιμοποιώντας παράλληλα γλώσσα που ταιριάζει σ'αυτό το κοινό και με την ιστορία να είναι συναρπαστική και να κινεί το ενδιαφέρον του νέου αναγνώστη. Έχει μεταφερθεί και στους κινηματογράφους, το 1988, με σκηνοθέτη τον Keith Gordon που έχει γυρίσει και κάμποσα επεισόδια της σειράς Dexter!
I guess there is no way to soften the blow, but The Chocolate War is senseless to me. i thought the book has no purpose. It is my first time to encounter a story without a likely hero. Man, this really sucked for me! My apologies to my dear GR friends who liked The Chocolate War. Like what i said, agree to disagree. right? =)
I guess what i'm looking for is this: a ray of hope, a sliver or chance that maybe, maybe in the end something good will happen. How i believe in karma! it was unfortunate that such karma is beyond reach to Jerry, Goober, and to anyone else who felt oppressed, physically or psychologically, in this book.
i hate bullies. and i believe bullying was glorified in the end. what was all the sacrifices for, if not to wholly succeed after the debacle? Yep, the story was SENSELESS.
A book doesn't always have to have a happy ending, but my gosh, The Chocolate War did not give me even a little morsel to cheer on after i read it! Ugh. Bad chocolate taste.
YA books should empower its teen readers, and not suffocate them with an ugly truth without telling them that they CAN survive the harshness of life.
*Sniffs* can someone send me a MARS chocolate bar to ease my bitterness? =)
Reading this for/with the 8th grade. Mrs. LeVasseur had a pile of them and she highly recommended it. "Sure!" I says.
SO now I'm well more than half way and fascinated. I keep thinking that it's some big analogy for government and democracies or maybe the school is Russia and it's about communism. I'll have to check when it was written.
And now that I'm finished with it...let me continue my review:
I'm really surprised by the complexity of the characters. It reminds me of Watchmen in a way because at some points, the reader does not know who the good guys and bad guys are. It makes you ask yourself, "Does standing idly by make an antagonist or not?"
I am also still stuck on the idea of this being a huge analogy for communism and government relationships. There are several entities that seem to control the masses and the masses do indeed follow ever whim of the leaders. Very scary. 1984-esque, I would say. Big Brother is alive and well.
Războiul ciocolatei e o carte care a văzut greu lumina zilei. Scrisă în anii '70, după ce a fost respinsă mai bine de un an de 7 edituri importante, a fost publicată de o a opta pentru ca să fie interzisă câţiva ani mai târziu, dar nu înainte de a fi predată în şcoli în SUA şi alte ţări şi de a fi distinsă cu diferite titluri din categoria "cea mai bună carte pentru tineri a anului 1974".
Deşi au trecut ani buni de atunci, consider că o parte din temele pe care le abordează sunt încă relevante pentru tineretul din România. Nu pot decât să admir îndârjirea cu care autorul a ţinut să nu modifice acţiunea romanului aşa cum îi fusese indicat de către edituri, aşteptând momentul prielnic şi editura care avea să înţeleaga profunzimea mesajului cărţii în varianta originală.
Motivul respingerii acestei cărţi, pe lângă limbaj, conţinutul sexual şi afişarea unui liceul catolic într-o lumină nu tocmai frumoasă a fost în principal tonul sumbru al cărţii, mai ales pesimismul finalului care se abate de la clasicul şi sigurul happy end pe care cititorii tineri îl preferă. Din această cauză, trebuie să recunosc că lectura mea iniţial accelerată a devenit mai degrabă lentă în ultima treime a cărţii, pe măsură ce lucrurile se înrăutăţeau pentru eroul poveştii.
Jerry Renault e un adolescent ca oricare altul, aflat pe drumul descoperirii sinelui şi lumii în care trăieşte. Mânat iniţial de societatea secretă a liceului, Vigilenţii, el va accepta misiunea de a refuza să participe la vânzarea anuală de ciocolată ce aduce venituri suplimentare instituţiei. Însă continuă să protesteze prin neparticipare chiar şi după ce duce la bun sfârşit misiunea, din motive pe care nici el nu le înţelege pe deplin. Acţiunile lui Jerry devin un subiect de maxim interes pentru întregul colectiv, reacţiile elevilor şi profesorilor variind pe parcursul acţiunii de vânzare de la admiraţie la dispreţ.
În prim plan intră, pe rând, şi alte personaje, poate cel mai important de menţionat fiind fratele Leon. Preluând conducerea şcolii datorită stării de sănătate a directorului principal, acesta manipulează cu cruzime şi viclenie elevii, folosindu-se de influenţa Vigilenţilor pentru a face din vânzarea ciocolatei un succes şi a-şi asigura postul de director după retragerea celui precedent. Leon nu se dă înapoi de la violenţă, folosind orice mijloace pentru a transmite o lecţie sau a-şi îndeplini obiectivele.
În timp ce acţiunea în sine mi s-a părut de-a dreptul fascinantă, am detestat fiecare personaj în parte, cu excepţia lui Jerry, pe care am reuşit doar să-l antipatizez. Cartea aduce în prim plan o serie de aspecte urâte ale societăţii şi a unor tipologii de oameni cu care, din păcate, ne putem întâlni chiar şi în secolul XXI. Cartea a fost ecranizată în 1988 şi are o continuare - Beyond the Chocolate War, ambele stârnindu-mi curiozitatea.
Am stat mult pe gânduri în ceea ce priveşte nota pe care să o acord acestei cărţi. Deşi au fost multe aspecte care mi-au displăcut, am simţit destul de intens anumite trăiri ale personajelor, reuşind să înţeleg în mare parte până şi comportamentul antagoniştilor. În cele din urmă, m-am oprit asupra notei de 3.5 flori de vanilie, rotunjită spre 4, pentru simplul fapt că nu orice carte poate să te lase în mod pozitiv, voit, cu un gust amar... de cacao pură.
Nicio ciocolată nu a fost sacrificată în timpul scrierii acestei recenzii.
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier, takes place in a Catholic prep school for boys. The main character is Jerry Renault, a freshman who is dealing with the recent death of his mother. Not only has Jerry’s mother died, but his father has become very depressed and is unable to help Jerry through this difficult time. When school starts Jerry puts everything he has into making it on the football team, and things seem to be going well until the lead member of the school’s secret society, The Vigils, singles him out for a difficult assignment. Archie, the ring leader of The Vigils, decides that Jerry must refuse to sell chocolates for the big school fundraiser, in order to stay out of trouble with the dangerous secret society. When Jerry refuses to sell the chocolates Brother Leon, a cruel and frightening teacher at the school, makes things very uncomfortable for Jerry. The theme of this novel is depicted plainly by the quote on the poster in Jerry’s locker; do I dare disturb the universe? Jerry is dealing with the depression at home, and with the realization that most of the teachers and the students at his school are bad people. When The Vigils tell Jerry that his assignment is over and that he can now sell the chocolates, Jerry performs an act of rebellion in the school and still refuses to sell the chocolates. It is at this point that things really begin to fall a part for Jerry, and he is subjected to fierce bullying by classmates and teachers because of his rebellion. The most difficult thing about this novel is that it ends on such a desperate note. Jerry has been broken by The Vigil, and the members get by with no punishment. Robert Cormier writes a follow up to this story called Beyond the Chocolate War, but I have not read it. I am interested to see if justice is served in the sequel.
I think this is the kind of story that speaks to high school students during a trying time in their life. Unfortunately, many students would find the fact that the bullies go unpunished quite realistic. This story could be used in a high school English class for a novel study, and would also be a great book to recommend to individual readers. Even though I think girls could be interested in the characters, this book seems like it is really meant for male readers. Boys and men dominate this story; women serve only as sexual objects of desire, not real people. This book was published in 1974 and from the beginning it has faced opposition. The Chocolate War has been challenged because of sexual content, inappropriate language, and violence. I though the language and violence was fairly mild, but throughout the story masturbation is alluded to several times. I think this novel is appropriate for high school aged students. The Chocolate War was written such a long time ago that I had a difficult time finding comprehensive book reviews, but I did find some quotes from book reviews on the Random House Web site. The reviewer from School Library Journal thought that The Chocolate War was “an uncompromising portrait of human cruelty and conformity” and the reviewer from The New York Times Book Review wrote that “The Chocolate War is masterfully structured and rich in theme”.