The Chocolate War


Title:   The Chocolate War

Author:  Robert Cormier

Publisher:  Ember 30 Anniversary edition, 2004 (1974)

ISBN: 9780375829871

About the author: from

The beloved author of such quintessential young adult novels as The Chocolate War and I Am the Cheese began writing at age 12 and never looked back. His first published work was a short story he wrote in college, which was submitted to a magazine by his teacher without his knowledge. Cormier then went on to work as a newspaper reporter and columnist for 30 years. He has won many prizes, both for his journalistic work and for his young adult novels. Perhaps the award that makes him most proud is the prestigious Margaret A. Edwards Award, presented by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association in recognition of authors who provide young adults with a window through which they can view the world, and which help them to grow and understand themselves and their role in society.

Cormier was born and raised in Leominster, Massachusetts, where he still lives. He and his wife, Connie, have four grown children. An avid traveler, Cormier has visited nearly every state in the U.S. In his spare time, he reads, something he recommends all aspiring writers should spend considerable time doing. Among the authors he considers inspirational are Graham Greene, J.D. Salinger, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, William Saroyan, Brian Moore, and John O’Hara. Cormier also enjoys watching movies on his VCR, listening to music everything from Dixieland jazz to ABBA to the Rolling Stones to Bing Crosby and walking for exercise.

Plot: Jerry Renault is experiencing bullying by Trinity School’s gang leader, Archie Costello. After refusing to obey Archie, there are unexpected consequences for Jerry and Trinity School.

Critical Evaluation:

The Chocolate War is a lesson about non-conformity. Jerry Renault is a student at Trinity High school.  Jerry is accosted by Archie Costello, the leader of the school gang The Vigils. Archie is a psychopath with no conscience, and he is left to his own devices. He doesn’t have a moral compass, and unfortunately, Brother Leon encourages it.

Richard Cormier writes a compelling and gritty novel about high school life. Archie is a psychopath who just wishes to inflict pain on people, and as a result of facing no consequences for his actions,the situation escalates. This book is an angst-filled story with a generic high school atmosphere in the background. It was as hard to read as it was emotionally intense

In a type of hazing, Jerry and his friend “The Goober”, get assignments by Archie’s gang. Goober gets an assignment to unscrew everything furniture related in a classroom number nineteen. Jerry’s assignment is to refuse to sell chocolates. This results in Jerry being beaten up, bullied, harassed, and stalked. The story takes on the big picture of high school life, and the cruel kids who put themselves in charge without any boundaries. When Jerry’s assignment is over, he is supposed to sell the chocolates. He refuses.  This disturbing, high-drama novel really puts into perspective the abuses of power and the cruelty and bullying that accompany it.

Reader’s Annotation: Jerry Renault’s assignment is to refuse to sell chocolates. What will he do when his assignment changes?

Genre: classics, realistic fiction

Curriculum Ties: teen Classics

Booktalking Ideas: What if you attended a high school with a gang like The Vigils? Would you be able to stand up to them the way that Jerry did?

Reading Level: 14+

Interest Age: 14+

Challenge Issues— violence, offensive language, gangs

Challenge Resources

  • Library Selection Policy
  • Rationale explaining why the item was chosen for the collection
  • Active listening skills
  • Awards
  • Reconsideration form (as a last resort)
  • National Council of Teachers of English “Right to Read”
  • Positive and negative reviews: expert, parent, student
  • ALA Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials
  • ALA Bill of Rights on Intellectual Freedom
  • Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  • Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

Why did you pick this for your collection?

  • YALSA 100 Best Books (1950-2000)
  • Curricular Connections
  • Modern Teen Classics
  • Readers’ Advisory
  • All About Realistic Fiction for Teens
  • Recommended Reads
  • Classic Realistic Fiction for Teens”