Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

★★★ 1/2
"Do I dare disturb the universe? Jerry suddenly understood the poster - the solitary man on the bench standing upright and alone and unafraid, poised at the moment of making himself heard and known in the world, the universe."

Jerry Renault challenges the traditions of his Catholic high school when he refuses to sell chocolates for an annual fundraiser.  The school is run by the Vigils, a secret society of students that give Jerry an “assignment” to not sell the chocolate for ten days.  To everyone’s surprise, Jerry decides not to participate in the sale after his assignment is over and a ripple of disruption is caused throughout the Vigils, the students, and the administration of the school.  Students begin to follow Jerry’s lead and not sell chocolates themselves, but the Vigils have other plans.  The novel explores how different students are affected by Jerry’s lack of participation in the sale.  In the end, Jerry is fearns the consequence of disrupting the authority of the Vigils and questions if his decision was worth it.

I was glad that I got the opportunity to read this book.  At first glance, the story is simply about a chocolate sale, but the author is able to bring up so many other important aspects and themes as the story unfolds.  The story was very unique in that it questioned the authority of not only administration at the school, but of other students as well.  It raised many thought provoking questions, not all of which were answered, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions and about the story’s meaning.  

I wouldn’t say that I necessarily enjoyed reading the novel at the time, but I had a great appreciation for it afterwards.  It had a very serious and often dark tone tone making it a little hard to get through.  The book also jumped back and forth between so many characters that I sometimes had trouble keeping them straight.  After reading the novel, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the ending.  I ultimately wanted the story to have a happy ending and see the positive results of Jerry’s decision, but I did understand that author’s choice of ending the book with a raw and realistic conclusion.  I would recommend this novel to others based on the important questions it raised and the unique style of the author.    

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