March 28, 2012

The Chocolate War by Richard Cormier

What a strange, disturbing little book. I honestly have very mixed feelings about it. And not for the disturbing parts, I actually liked those. What I didn't really like about this book was the style of the writing, which is probably weird on my part I guess.

Jerry is just trying to fit in at school. After the death of his mother and the loving but distant relationship with his father, he needs something else in his life. So he goes out for the football team. And you would think that would be where things get interesting. But no, Jerry's school is a little different. It's a prep school for the middle class, and underneath it all is a secret organization of boys who's main purpose seems to be creating mayhem. They like to "assign" tasks, and in this case Jerry has to forgo selling chocolates in the school's annual sale. And something so harmless doesn't seem like much at the time to Jerry, but it quickly becomes much more sinister.

I never really connected to Jerry as a character. We're given a little bit of his background and his emotions, but never all of it. And I think that made the book wanting a bit. Heck, I'm still not even sure why he didn't want to sell chocolate although I feel like I should know. And the rest of the kids weren't exactly endearing either, although I think that was kind of the point. I think the only character I did like was Jerry's father, and he didn't even play much of a role. But at least he was sympathetic and a little bit of light shone in the book.

The concept behind the book was brilliant. Peer pressure, sinister schools, the animalistic side of humans. There was a lot of different themes here. And it was definitely a dark and disturbing book with some lessons hidden here and there. But the writing, I just couldn't get into the style of writing. The lack of connection to the characters was one thing, but reading it in half a regular book and half through a teenage boys eyes was tough to do. Now granted I've never been a teenage boy, but I should at least be able to sympathize a little bit right? I just had so much trouble enjoying the pace and flow of the book and getting caught up in it. I was actually a bit glad when it was over, not because I hated it, but because it was tedious for me to read in that voice.

Fantastic idea which sub par writing, I'm not sure if I'd attempt the sequel or not. Although the ending is a bit ambiguous which I actually liked for once and it made me curious.

The Chocolate War
Copyright 1974
191 pages

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