Monday, August 27, 2012

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Although this book was written in the 70s, it is a timeless tale with themes that are still relevant today.

In an all boys school there is a secret society called the Vigils that creates "assignments" for select boys to complete. Archie creates the assignments and is relatively revered in the school. A change is coming at the school, though, when the headmaster is out and the current man in charge, Brother Leon, sets out a plot to sell 20,000 boxes of old Mother's Day chocolates. While the school is used to chocolate sales, it was only half this amount and Brother Leon calls upon the Vigils to make sure every box is sold. There's only one flaw in his plan and it's a new boy named Jerry Renault. At first Jerry says no to selling chocolates because of an assignment but when the time period is over, he continues to refuse to sell. Brother Leon is furious because this boy is disrupting the system and soon others begin the start thinking like Jerry. The Vigils aren't happy either, especially after they told him to start selling and he continues to refuse. Can order be brought back or will free will reign?

This novel plays on a lot of important themes for teens such as peer pressure, bullying, free will and standing up for what you believe in. That said, the message at the end of the book isn't that uplifting, even if it is a bit realistic because sometimes the bad guys to succeed and wills are broken. Some of the ideas in the book are a bit perposterous and the characters caricatures, but maybe you have to go extreme to get your point across. I would have liked a little bit more character development. I wanted to know a little bit more with regards to motivation for certain characters. Most of all though, I wanted to see the bad guys taken down a peg and that never really happened.

This book is realistic in the point that the good guys don't always succeed, but unrealistic in certain situations. My expectations and hopes left me disappointed with the book, but I think it has merit for the themes that it presents.

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