Book Club Pick: January 2016
Title: The Chocolate War
Author: Robert Cormier
Series: Followed by a sequel Beyond the Chocolate War (released in 1985)
Country: United States
Publisher: Pantheon Books
First Published: 1974
New boy Jerry Renault refuses to sell chocolates for Trinity School’s annual fundraiser. This small act of defiance starts a chain reaction, exposing the corruption running through the school and starting an all-out war with the Vigils, the school’s secret society. There is only one solution, but who will survive?
‘Do I dare disturb the universe?‘ – a line from T.S. Eliot that is on a poster on Jerry’s locker.
Jerry Renault, is a freshmen at Trinity, a Catholic high school for boys. He is a quiet and reserved student, silently coping following the death of his mother.
One day Jerry is approached by Archie Costello, who is the Assigner for the Vigils, a secret underground student society. Each student when joining the Vigils is assigned a task (think hazing and peer pressure). Jerry’s assignment is to refuse to sell any chocolates for ten days during the school’s fundraiser.
Jerry decides after the ten days to still refuse to sell chocolates, which puts him at heads with the Vigils and sadistic vice principal Brother Leon. His defiant act turns into an all-out war with bullying and coercion.
The novel highlights the Vigil’s manipulation, cruelty and control over students. This very dark depiction of the abuse of authority could easily be a metaphor for any corrupt political society in the world.
Due to its content the book is frequently banned and appears third on the American Library Association’s list of Top 100 Banned / Challenged Books in 2000 – 2009.
The novel was adapted into a feature film in 1988, directed by Keith Gordon.
Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library.