Monday, July 4, 2011

Thoughts: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier has been in my to-be-read pile for quite a while. I always chose some other book over it, because I read Cormier’s Wikipedia page and found out that he’s known for his pessimism. Damn you, Wikipedia, for scaring me away.

Jerry Renault is a freshman at Trinity—a high school ruled by the mafia-like Vigils and the cunning Brother Leon. When the school begins its annual chocolate sale, Jerry refuses to participate, and this begins a tidal wave of rebellion among the students. Jerry is viewed as a hero by his classmates, but is soon ostracized when the Vigils step in. Alone but refusing to give up, Jerry must ask himself: Does he dare disturb the universe?

I absolutely loved this book, which isn’t surprising since it reminded me of John Green’s novels. John Green is ONE OF MY FAVORITE WRITERS. Now, Cormier and Green are two completely different writers, but Cormier’s use of the T.S. Eliot line ‘Do I dare disturb the universe?’ reminded me of John Green’s use of literary references in his novels. Cormier only used a single line from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, but what a perfect line it is. It summed up the novel perfectly, how Jerry did indeed dare to disturb the clockwork-like universe of Trinity. Also, I’m a sucker for books that mention other books/poems.

And the characters! I can’t gush enough about them. Cormier didn’t describe them in great detail, but they came alive anyway through the dialogue. The dialogue was pitch-perfect. Every single sentence felt natural, and told me more about the characters than paragraphs of back story ever could. I have to say that Archie Costello, the Grand High Poobah, of the vigils is one of my favorite fictional characters. Ever. Talk about the devil in a teenage boy’s body. Mafia dons have nothing on him.

This book isn’t a feel-good novel that gives you hope. It was kind of depressing, actually, but the great thing about it is that it made me look within myself, wondering what I’m capable of. Like Jerry Renault, do I have the guts to disturb the universe?

Rating: 5/5

6 comments:

theeclecticreader said...

Sounds like a great book, as you I love when authors mentioned other books in their works, it gives a new meaning to the book.
The theme of the book sounds great I enjoy books when a character rebels against a pre-defined order.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Dont you hate that when things keep us from reading a book (cover, comments, etc...) and then we find out its awesome? I want to read this one too...
title alone had me. :)

Tiny Library said...

Why hadn't I even heard of this book?

Zibilee said...

I have heard a lot about this book, but have never even thought to read it. Now you have made me want to seek out a copy, and to think that you were almost scared away by some negative press. That would have been a real shame.

Biblibio said...

So... I know I read The Chocolate War at some point, but I can't for the life of me remember anything about the story, the characters, the writing... anything other than the fact that I wasn't particularly impressed. I'm thinking it might deserve a reread...

Andi said...

This is one of those books that's standard fare for an academic studying children's/adolescent lit. That was my specialty in grad school, yet I've always steered clear of Cormier's books. I have this one and Fade on my shelves, so that's for the positive push!

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