The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Challenge 29 ~ “A banned book.”


★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

I’ve found this read quite difficult to review – it wasn’t an awful book, but it wasn’t a stellar read either. It took me a while to read the novel, despite it being quite short, and it definitely lacked a grip to pull me back once I’d put it down. On the other hand, Cormier had the most fantastic way with language that I was constantly in awe of his writing when I was reading.

The novel began with a steady build up in terms of plot and pacing, however the reader was bombarded with short accounts and a variety of characters, and thus it was easy to become confused between accounts. This was not aided by several names being used to represent the same character (such as ‘Emile’ and ‘Janza’.) The elimination or merging of minor, insignificant characters would have been a relatively simple step in making the novel more accessible to its target audience.

Nevertheless, Cormier’s quality of writing is definitely note-worthy. The characterisation of each player, and their relative development, is strong throughout the novel, and accompanied by a steady and appropriate pacing. Through representing the plot from multiple perspectives, Cormier offers a deeper avenue for evaluating the issues and characters, which leaves the reader to draw their own moral conclusions on Jerry’s actions and those of others around him.

From the plot alone it is easy to see why the book is banned in schools, but it is a restriction I don’t agree with. Whilst the book seemingly glorifies bullying, pranks and unruly behaviour, it also emphasises the importance of standing up for what you believe in (even when you are going it alone, or times are getting difficult.) On top of this Cormier presents a platform where the motivations of all the players involved are highlighted, and this insight into the complex nature of rules and tradition can demonstrate the importance of authority. Plus, on a simple literary analysis level, Cormier’s writing techniques and quality are undeniable gems.

Recommended for fans of:

  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Whose Side Are You On? by Alan Gibbons

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