Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book Review: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Bookish Ardour has sponsored The Century Challenge this year. The books selected will be decided by publication year and have to be read in order from the time period chosen.

I've decided to participate at the Decade level which means I read 10 books from one decade.

I read
this for my "1974" choice.

Summary from Wikipedia:

When acting headmaster Brother Leon overextends his ambition by committing the students to sell twice as many boxes of chocolates at twice the price in the annual school chocolate sale, he reaches out to Archie and The Vigils to lend support for the effort. Archie is seduced by the promise of having the headmaster's implicit support for the group, and agrees. As if exulting in the potential of his power, Archie assigns Jerry to refuse to sell any chocolate for ten days. Jerry complies with the group, but then persists in his refusal to sell even after the ten days have passed. Both Brother Leon and The Vigils are incensed by Jerry's resistance, which threatens their ability to control the student body.

Jerry's refusal to take part is seen by many peers as heroic, but at Brother Leon's insistence The Vigils put their full force behind the chocolate sale, and in doing so set Jerry up as a villain to be harassed and bullied. Jerry is haunted by prank calls and his locker and possessions are vandalized. Archie enlists the school bully Emile Janza to brutally attack Jerry, but Jerry maintains his defiance. In a final show of power, Archie and The Vigils concoct a final event for the chocolate sale: a boxing match between Jerry and Emile in which each student chooses which blows will be laid by combatants. The match is halted by Brother Jacques, but not before Jerry is brutally beaten by Emile. Floating in and out of consciousness, Jerry says to his only friend, Goubert, that there was no way to win and that he should have just gone along with what everyone wanted him to do. Though Archie is caught and confronted by Brother Jacques, Brother Leon intervenes on Archie's behalf, implying that the next year Archie's power will be sustained by this new headmaster.

My Thoughts:

I have to admit that I struggled with one...maybe it was because I have heard so much about it, that it's a classic, that many high school students have read this; I don't know. But I just didn't get all the hype about it. I get the idea of good vs evil displayed by Jerry defying the school but who's good and who's evil? At some point, I wondered what was the big deal? It's a chocolate sale, for goodness sake. While I liked the idea of someone standing up for what they believe in, doing what they think is right, this book just wasn't for me , I guess. Without giving anything away, the ending had a "Lord of the Flies" feel to it that I wasn't crazy about and it all seemed very rushed at the end like there was a time-limit. Not one of my favorite reads...

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