Monday, October 15, 2012

Book #65: The Chocolate War

Book #65: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5/5 stars

I know, it's been a little while since I last posted, but I have been reading lots! I'm back to YA with this novel, originally published in 1974, but its popularity (and controversy) has spanned the decades.

The Chocolate War's protagonist is a freshman named Jerry Renault. In his locker, he has a poster that poses the question: "Do I dare disturb the universe?" This question is a central point of the novel. Jerry doesn't have many friends besides "The Goober" - Roland Goubert - and he doesn't quite love life at Trinity Catholic high school. No one really notices who he is...until he refuses to participate in the school-wide annual chocolate sale.

It turns out that the reason for this was because Archie Costello, an upperclassman who enjoys manipulating and making people squirm, and the Vigils, a mysterious society of boys within the school, have given Jerry the "assignment" to refuse the chocolates for two weeks, just enough time to make Brother Leon, the chocolate sale's biggest pusher, nervous.

However, what happens when the two weeks are up, and Jerry still refuses to participate in the sale? Why is he so adamant about not selling? Is it simply a lack of school spirit? Laziness? Or something more? And how will the Vigils and the other students react when Jerry becomes legend, the first student to not sell chocolate for the school? You have to read to find out whether Jerry becomes a hero, or a target.

This book has been banned and challenged many times since it's publication in the 1970s...which of course means that you need to read it ASAP! The reasons given for challenging the novel include: "offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group", according to ALA's "Frequently Challenged Books of the 21st Century" list. Of course this only entices readers to get their hands on this novel faster. I felt that it was absolutely worth reading, and despite how long ago it was published, it is easy to read and entertaining and intriguing until the end. Happy reading!

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