The Chocolate War Book Review

Ayelet Handel '19

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The Chocolate War is a novel by Robert Cormier set in an all-boys religious high school that centers around a few high school boys who have vastly different roles and perspectives. While the basic plot features the classic settings of the classroom and football fields, the main focus is the dynamics between the students and the authority figures, when they face a rebellion against a school chocolate sale. At Trinity High School, the boys are pretty ordinary with a range of personalities. Some, like Jerry Renault and The Goober, are football players who are on the more timid side. Meanwhile, others, such as Archie and Obie, put themselves in a position to govern the school in their secret group, The Vigils. Even the teachers, Brother Leon and Brother Eugene, are controlled by Archie and Obie’s powerful positions. The novel gives excellent insight into the undercover manipulation and power plays that occur between simple high school students. Cormier’s tone and description provide vivid images of everyday scenes that thoroughly expose the emotion and sensation of the characters; whether it is the guilt felt while carrying out a Vigils Assignment; the anticipation of calling a girl; or the rush of doom while facing the opposing team. The narration fluidly highlights the thoughts of the different characters and carries the story from one boy’s reaction to the next, as the events of the story proceed.

While I read The Chocolate War, I was not only intrigued by the vividness of the scenes, but I also found myself engrossed by the manipulation of the faculty members and the boys. For instance, The Vigils control anyone they wish, but Jerry with his strong resistance undermines The Vigils’ wishes and the school’s attempt at selling chocolate as a fundraiser. The novel, overall, consists of an intricate system of everyone attempting to get the upper hand, while maintaining his position in the school. When given the opportunity to comply or to rebel, Jerry, for example, surprises everyone- including himself- by taking a stand against the chocolate sale. Jerry’s poster poses the question, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” In spirit of his poster, Jerry chooses to defy the manipulation of the previously undisputed Vigils and become a symbol for determining not to let the school control the students.

I would recommend The Chocolate War to anyone who is looking for an engaging, honest novel that shows the struggles of trying to stand up for beliefs that everybody else might oppose.


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