Friday, May 14, 2010

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Jerry Renault's life has just turned upside down; his mother has just died, and he has very little connection with his hard-working father. But he's tough -- even when pushed hard, he won't back down. When the controlling gang/secret society at his Catholic private school forces him to refuse to sell chocolates during their yearly fundraiser, the group begins a full-on war between Jerry and Brother Leon, one of the scariest teachers to ever grace the pages of a YA novel.

A harrowing book about power and authority, The Chocolate War definitely feels like it comes from a different era, a time when no student would dare defy a teacher. However, the well-drawn characters and tightrope-taut plot has a pull all their own. This is a world -- distant, strange, and old school -- that crawls into your veins. Explosive and heart-wrenching.

Bibliotherapeutic value:  Times have changed, but students will be able to relate to the power struggle. Anyone who has ever been forced into doing something by a parent, friend, or peer group will relate to Jerry's struggle and admire his guts. There's no clean message here, but it's a powerful meditation on power and control.

Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War. New York: Laurel Leaf, 1986.

ISBN: 978-0440944591. $7.99.

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