The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this book because I found it on a list of banned books, and never one afraid to rise to the challenge, I felt like, who are you to tell me what should and should not be read? The version I read had an introduction by the author, who, at the time of writing the book, hadn't actually planned on it being a teen novel. He had a son who had just started at a new private school, were, as a fundraiser, the students had to sell boxes of chocolate. Cormier wrote this book because he was worried about what would happen to his son if he refused to sell the chocolates. Of course, it didn't matter, because his son had no issue with selling the chocolates, but this idea nagged at Cormier.
And that's the plot of the book in a nutshell. Jerry, a freshman, refuses to sell the chocolates, at first as part of an "assignment" from a secret student organization called The Vigils (who, of course, everybody actually knows about). Then, he decides to keep it up on his own. This is where things start to get interesting. For over the first half of the book, I couldn't actually figure out why it had been banned. But like I said, then it starts to get interesting.
I don't want to give too much away, but this is a brilliant book about the dangers of bullying. And there are some great characters. Goober, who successfully completes his assignment, but who suffers because of it; Archie, the member of The Vigils who thinks up the assignments; Obie, who's job it is to make sure the assignments get carried out, and who is disgusted by Archie, and more. The use of distinct and dynamic characters propels this book forward. The outcome is poignant because it is ground in reality.
I strongly recommend this book.
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