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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Stunned by his mother's recent death and appalled by the way his father sleepwalks through life, Jerry Renault, a New England high school student, ponders the poster in his locker-Do I dare disturb the universe? Part of his universe is Archie Costello, leader of a secret school societ-the Virgils-and master of intimidation. Archie himself is intimidated by a cool, ambitious teacher into having the Virgils spearhead the annual fund-raising event-a chocolate sale. When Jerry refuses to be bullied into selling chocolates, he becomes a hero, but his defiance is a threat to Archie, the Virgils, and the school. In the inevitable showdown, Archie's skill at intimidation turns Jerry from hero to outcast, to victim, leaving him alone and terribly vulnerable.…

The Chocolate War

by Robert Cormier

Overall Book Review:

I’ve picked The Chocolate War up several times and just haven’t been in the mood to read it. This time I decided to persevere. Halfway through, I found myself wondering, why am I reading this? It’s a highly acclaimed novel, recommended by just about every young adult must-read list, but feel free to pass. 

The story is well written but dark and depressing. Don’t let the chocolate-y title fool you. The characters in power are cruel and ruthless. Those that aren’t are weak and prone to engage in mob mentality. Aside from masturbating and thinking demeaning thoughts about girls, the only thing anyone does in this story is try to grab power or avoid being tormented by those who have it. 

At about the halfway mark, things start to get exciting. It looks as though there might be a satisfying ending to the story, and possibly redemption for one or more characters. That only makes the ending more infuriating. I get it–there are cruel people in the world, and they often get away with bullying others. Those of us who don’t have power are just trying to stay out of their way. It’s a powerful allegory. It’s also really depressing.

It’s possible that the sequel provides some resolution. I’m not going to bother. For kids who want to read about boys in power and others who fight against it, I recommend The Maze Runner series.


Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language: 19 religious exclamations; 59 mild obscenities; 11 religious profanities; 26 derogatory names; 5 scatological words; 3 anatomical terms.

Violence/Gore:  Violent football plays leave a player with mild injuries (twice); a character punches another character in the jaw and stomach; a character is jumped by several people and beaten; in an extended scene (3 pgs), two characters participate in a boxing match–one is hospitalized–very little blood.

Sex/Nudity:  Masturbation is mentioned (twice); a character looks at pornography; a character thinks about touching a girl’s breasts (twice); a character is sexually aroused; orgasm is vaguely referred to (twice); a character rubs up against another character in a flirtatious manner; a character is found masturbating; a character touches himself with the intent to masturbate (twice); a character looks at a girl and thinks about sexual acts (no detail).

Mature Subject Matter:

Bullying, death of a family member.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Marijuana is mentioned; underage characters drink and smoke.

Overall Book Rating
Profanity/Language
Rating:
9
10
Violence/Gore
Rating:
3
10
Sex/Nudity
Rating:
5
10

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About the Reviewer

I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My mother would often find me curled up in a corner, avoiding chores with a book–or two. When I was growing up, there wasn’t a large selection of YA books. I had children’s books and adult literature to choose from. I’ve come to love YA fiction as an adult and read almost nothing else when I read for pleasure–any genre will do.