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review 2017-06-03 18:54
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier

Genre: School / Conformity / Controversial

Year Published: 1974

Number of Pages: 272 pages

Date Read: 8/30/2010   

Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf




Series: The Chocolate War #1




When I started reading this book, I was wondering to myself about why this book was banned in so many schools. Now, I know why. “The Chocolate War” is a popular young adult book by Robert Cormier and it is about how a young teenage boy named Jerry Renault refuses to sell chocolates at his school, Trinity and how he faces some hardships from Brother Leon and the Vigils because of his defiance. “The Chocolate War” might be a bit too disturbing and dark from some people, but this book is clearly one of the most memorable banned books ever written!

Oh my goodness! When I first heard about this book, I thought it was simply going to be about a group of kids fighting over who should eat the chocolates. But then, when I got around to reading this book, I realized that this book was all about the cruelties of the world such as manipulating various students into selling chocolates, even if you do not want to sell the chocolates and the consequences if you step out of line from the rest of the student body. Robert Cormier has certainly done an excellent job at making this book extremely disturbing and dark as he cleverly builds up tension around Jerry Renault’s defiance against selling the chocolates at the chocolate sale. The true highlights of this book were the characters themselves as they are realistic in personalities that you would normally see at any high school. Jerry Renault plays the underdog hero in this book as he tries to defend his stance in not selling the chocolates since he believes everyone has the right to do what you think is right and as it happens to every hero, he goes through so much hardship and danger when he defies the rules of Trinity. I find myself liking Jerry so much in this book since he tries hard to defend his rights, even if the other students do not believe in him and I love the idea that people will try to defend themselves when they believe that the activities set for them are not right for them. Some other interesting characters in this book are Archie Costello, the leader of the Vigils and Brother Leon. You will never know a truly terrible villain in any book until you read about what Brother Leon and Archie Costello has done to so many people in this book. Both Brother Leon and Archie Costello are truly frightening characters as they use manipulation and cruelty to get what they want from the school, to the point of using violence to get what they want.

Some people might have a problem with this book as it is extremely dark and disturbing and there is also extreme violence in this book, especially towards of the end of the book and that might not sit too well with people who do not like violence. Another problem that most people might have with this book is the language as this book has strong language and many people might be sensitive about such strong language being used. Probably, the reason why this book is dark and disturbing is because it was told from a villain’s point of view, which is either Archie or Brother Leon and in most books or movies that are told from a villain’s perspective of the world are usually dark and disturbing (well, except for certain movies or books where the villain is a bumbling fool and the story is more like a comedy or dark comedy rather than a horror story, like the cartoon series “Invader Zim” for example, where the story is told from a villain’s point of view, but is still hilarious to watch.

Invader Zim

Now for the reason why “The Chocolate War” was banned in so many schools. “The Chocolate War” was one of the most banned books in history because of its strong profanity, some sexual discussions, extreme violence, and the theme of bribery and manipulation being used in a negative way (that is a lot of reasons, is it not?) However, I did enjoy this book because of the original and exciting plot, even though it felt like the ending was a bit “incomplete” meaning that so much more could have been said about the event that concluded the book. Hopefully, the sequel, “Beyond the Chocolate War,” might conclude this book more properly, so that is definitely one of the books that are worth checking out. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves reading books from the villain’s point of view and love reading banned books.

Review is also on: Rabbit Ears Book Blog



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review 2016-03-12 04:15
I Am the Cheese
I Am the Cheese - Robert Cormier

This is going to be a very short review because everything about this book is a spoiler. Even the title is a spoiler.


Adam is on a mission to bring his father a gift in the hospital, but the only way he can get there is by bicycle. As he peddles through small New England towns, he remembers the event that destroyed his family and led to him spending time in a mental hospital. Half of this book is told in interviews between Adam and his doctor. The other half is about Adam’s journey to visit his father.


I was eager to read this novel because The Chocolate War was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. I also really like Robert Cormier’s short stories. I Am the Cheese was first published in 1977. It’s a classic of young adult literature and a must-read for fans of the genre. Like the author’s other works, this one is unapologetically depressing. Adam has some serious mental health issues. Even he doesn’t understand how serious they are. The book has a few twists at the end that probably took a lot of bravery for the author to write. I love the twists, but many readers will find them disappointing. This book is full of ambiguity and unreliable characters.


I’m glad that this book helped pave the way for other realistic books about mental health. Some of the ideas about mental health may be outdated, but it’s still an important book. Adam is a sweet kid who loves his family, but his life starts going downhill after he discovers family secrets that put them in danger and keep them on the run. None of the characters in this book can be trusted, not even the narrator.


The interview chapters are a bit dry and info-dumpish. I was always happy to get back to the chapters about Adam on the bike. I wish that the interview chapters had either been developed more or left vaguer. Even though the book is a quick read, I found them slightly boring.


On Adam’s journey, he experiences betrayal and fear, uncertainty and isolation. He has a very unusual life, but he’s still a relatable character. I enjoyed reading his story.

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review 2016-03-01 18:40
Exile by James Cormier (Audiobook Review + Bonus Author Interview)
Exile: The Book of Ever Volume 1 - James Cormier,Gabrielle de Cuir,Evil Toad Press
Interesting YA Post-apocalyptic SF that’s not quite dystopian.

Centuries after the Fall, the United States has been wiped away. The crumbling remains of the great American empire are home now only to savage, lawless tribes and packs of ravening Damned - the twisted children of the apocalypse. Most of those few who survived humanity's destruction spend their short lives in a violent struggle for survival. But some light still flickers in the darkness: the Blessed of Bountiful live in seclusion, relying on walls both physical and spiritual to protect them from the Desolation.

Disclosure: Hovering over the cover and purchasing may give me a small commission (yippee, book $).


SERIES INFO: This is Book #1 in the “Book of Ever” series which, according to the author, is “planned as a trilogy.” Book #2, “which will be titled Extinction” will be out “sometime in 2016.”

I’m not labeling this one as dystopian because I felt that, despite it’s flaws and the dissatisfaction of some of it’s citizens, neither the founders nor current leaders of Bountiful were malevolent or deliberately oppressive. No society is perfect, and there will always be those who feel they don’t quite fit in (especially among the young).

Ever (18): is a Saint (someone gifted with supernatural powers) living in a fundamentalist religious society. She starts out with the ability to heal and begins to develop additional gifts along the way. She chafes against both the restrictions on women inherent in her society and the narrowness of her world, necessitated by very real dangers from outside. While her abilities are definitely “special,” she isn’t obnoxiously over talented. I like that she has a reasonable amount of self-defense & weapon skills for someone living in a dangerous world but isn’t unusually skilled. There are things she has to depend on others to do.
Jared (17): At first, like Ever, I disliked him. But he quickly proved his caring nature and determination to do the right thing. While he may have been a bit over competent for his age, his emotional responses seemed appropriate. He wasn’t controlling or dismissive. He let her do what she was good at and contributed his own skills to the mix.

Ever & Jared: I understand why she doesn’t really consider herself to be married, but their relationship was still a bit disturbing. They support each other with words & actions, and I liked them together; but I would like to have had more interaction between them earlier on, to develop the relationship. Note: it is clear from the beginning that something is going to happen with them, so it isn’t really a spoiler to discuss it.

Erlan: (Ever’s sort of husband) - deserves no mention; I seriously don’t understand him.

At first I had to write down the full names of Ever’s traveling companions, since sometimes they were called by their first names and sometimes by their last. As we went along, however, they began to be distinguished by their personalities.

I would have appreciated learning where Bountiful was in the pre-apocalyptic world sooner.
Boston area.
(spoiler show)

The prologue didn’t work for me as a beginning. The jump back in time from it to chapter one was too abrupt. That could have been resolved by simply saying “2 weeks earlier,” but it also made me impatient to get back to where we started. Note: I often have this response when the prologue is from a time soon after the beginning of the next chapter.

A couple of times I thought I knew what was going to happen but the author found a different, not so obvious, way to accomplish the same end.

I was thinking that it was nice that her society, despite be religious fundamentalists, nevertheless accepted those that were gifted; and the author highlighted that by introducing someone whose people didn’t accept his gifts.

It was also nice to get to see several different societies that have developed in isolation over the past several hundred years, from good to bad.

The ending can be considered a cliff-hanger since nothing is resolved, and a lot more questions have been introduced, but we don’t end right in the middle of a plot line. I will definitely be reading the sequel.

NARRATION: I wasn’t liking the reading at all, until I bumped up the speed. I listened on 1.5 speed (rather than my usual 1.25), and it was still a bit slow. However, I liked it much better on the higher speed. / The main distinction between character voices is through subtle accents. There is less distinction between the characters from Bountiful.

FAVORITE PART(S): Jared confronting Erlan, giving him a chance to “man up.” / Ever & Jared not really needing to speak.
“You’re making the concerned face,” she said
“You’re making the decisive face,” he countered. “You’ve decided to go through with it.”
I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: swearing (was an unexpected, unpleasant surprise more than halfway through and included blasphemy) / torture (thankfully not described)
OTHER WARNINGS: In case you missed it in the summary, Ever lives in a religious community. This group is descended from members of the LDS (Mormon) church who survived the apocalypse.

--Narration: AVERAGE (LOW on it's native speed)
--Enjoyment: HIGH
--Re-readability: AVERAGE

I received this book free in return for an honest review, courtesy of Audiobook Blast dot com.

Exile by James Cormier; read by Gabrielle de Cuir; produced by Evil Toad Press in 2015 / Length: 14 hrs 52 min (Unabr) / Available through Audible & Amazon plus iTunes [affiliate links]




Tell us something about your lead character(s) that we don't already know.*

Religious belief is a big theme throughout Exile, but what may not be immediately obvious (at least at first) is that the two main characters, Ever and Jared, struggle with their beliefs quite a bit. Neither of them is quite sure they believe it all, and most of the motivations that drive them in fact run pretty contrary to the Blessed's beliefs. The attraction between the two characters is illicit, at least according to their people's values, and they share a desire to see more of the world and do more with their lives than is offered by the quiet life of Bountiful. They also see a great deal of stagnation in their society. The sequels to Exile will explore these aspects of the characters in greater detail--and there might be a few unexpected surprises along the way!


*He revealed it here first.


What motivated you to sit down and write your first book?

I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Exile was the first novel I completed, though, ironically, it wasn't the first novel I intended to write. I was in the process of writing an epic fantasy and a number of other things when I started it. I sat down one day in front of a blank Word document and just started writing, and the prologue to Exile was what came out: Ever Oaks' diary entries from before she started her journey north. The rest of the story spilled out of me relatively easily, and relatively soon thereafter I realized I had to put my other work aside and finish Exile first. I'd written a lot of unpublished fiction by that point, but this was the first time I really understood what it meant for characters to "come alive" as I wrote them. It felt a lot more like uncovering a story that already existed than creating one as I went along.


I've always loved post-apocalyptic stories--in any medium. So that was a big motivation in writing Exile. The story really clicked for me when I thought about what characteristics might enable a society to survive such a catastrophic event as the one described in the book. And I don't mean just literal survival: what would assist a people in maintaining a particular way of life in the face of overwhelming odds? Usually the post-apocalypse stories you read involve survivalists roaming a wasteland, alive only by the grace of their toughness and grit. And they're usually loners, unwilling or unable to be part of a community. But it occurred to me that inter-reliance, or codependency, I suppose you might call it, might also be enough to keep not only a single person but a community alive and running. An intense, common belief system, such as a particular faith, if practiced devoutly and with determination, might keep the fabric of a community strong enough to withstand even an apocalyptic event.


The Blessed are loosely based on Mormons, who have a strong pioneer background and emphasize, even today, the necessity of things like food storage and financial independence and survival training. They also tend to be somewhat removed from the secular world, for a number reasons. It struck me as a set of traits that might translate well to the type of holdfast community that Ever and Jared come from. It wouldn't be as much of a transition for them, in other words.


But that same dogmatic belief system might also eventually hold them back, for instance, if their continued survival involved thinking outside the proverbial box. So that was the premise, and the story evolved naturally from there.


Tell us something about yourself that we might not already know.

I'm a lawyer by training. I was an Assistant District Attorney and then a defense attorney for years before I started writing full time. It's an experience that I'm still mulling over, trying to figure out how, if at all, to work it into a book some day.


Audiobook / eBook / Paperbooks? Which is your favorite and why?

I'd have to say I prefer ebooks, especially lately. I love paper books as objects, I love the smell of them and the feel of them and the craft of making the really fine ones. I love collecting them. Ideally speaking, I'd probably read paper books over anything else. But the convenience of reading a book on my iPad is undeniable, which is why I usually end up reading ebooks. I can read at night in bed with the lights off, and download new books immediately rather than having to wait to go out and buy them.


Audiobooks are wonderful as well, and when I was commuting every morning I listened to them constantly. I don't often listen to audiobooks these days, but when the question of whether to release Exile in audio arose I didn't hesitate. It's a wonderful medium and, I've discovered, the primary way a huge group of people discover books.

The best place to learn more about me and my books is at my website, www.jamesdcormier.com. You can find links to all my social media profiles there, or just google me!
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review 2014-12-29 22:40
The Chocolate War
The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier

Jerry Renault ponders the question on the poster in his locker: Do I dare disturb the universe? Refusing to sell chocolates in the annual Trinity school fund-raiser may not seem like a radical thing to do. But when Jerry challenges a secret school society called The Vigils, his defiant act turns into an all-out war. Now the only question is: Who will survive? First published in 1974, Robert Cormier's groundbreaking novel, an unflinching portrait of corruption and cruelty, has become a modern classic. (source)

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review 2014-10-29 01:07
The Chocolate War
The Chocolate War - Robert Cormier

The chocolate war is one of the most banned books among school libraries.  However the book's themes, plot, and insight to the teenage boys' psyche is what has made this book relevant among young adult readers for almost 40 years. Freshman Jerry Renault has accepted his first assignment as part of the Vigils by accepting the task of refusing to participate in the school chocolate sale for 10 days. Every day when his name is called he is expected to announce the number of boxes sold. His classmates' anticipation builds as each day the wait to for his announcement. On the eleventh day, Jerry surprises the Vigils by continuing to refuse the chocolate sale.This upsets Archie, one of the leaders, because Jerry has not complied with the Vigil's assignment. However, Archie does not take immediate action, but he will make sure that Jerry participates in the biggest most successful chocolate sale the school has ever had. Jerry becomes the target of his classmates' bullying and is physically aggravated for his defiance. The book's protagonist is forced to participate in a boxing match, therefore participating in the chocolate sale. As a result Jerry learns that life isn't always fair, and that standing up for your beliefs does not always provide you with the best results.


Cormier, R. (1974). The chocolate war. NY: Delacorte. 

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