What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Chocolate War remains one of the best books for teens when it comes to examining moral issues. The intensity of emotion will challenge readers to form opinions and engage. It's brilliantly written and examines some serious moral problems that are very age-appropriate and relevant for teens. This is a book for teens who don't require a happy ending with everything tied up in a neat little package.
What's the story?
When high school teen Jerry Renault refuses to sell chocolate during his school fundraiser, his decision kicks off a stream of events that cause the school to unravel. Is he a hero or a scapegoat? The school divides on the subject. The book has some terrifying characters including a vicious student and the corrupt temporary headmaster who controls the school, targeting freshman Jerry Renault when he quietly resists them. With the whole school against him, Jerry stands alone. The book raises deep questions of good, evil, independence, and compliance. All serious grist for a developing teen's mill. This dark, disturbing novel towers as one of the true classics of Young Adult Literature.
Is it any good?
This book, deals with life's cruelty, and deals with complex issues with intensity. Evil in all its ugliness pervades the story, which Robert Cormier sets in a private Catholic school, presenting evil as something that can invade even our own protected lives.
Only a few villains cause all the mayhem, and the book exposes them early. However, Cormier won't spare us from life's nasty truths. Readers might wonder, "Would any of us have done better, or would we make the same easy compromises as Cormier's characters?" For that reason, this book remains relevant: It forces readers to face the reality of evil, and examine how to confront it.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about the significance of the quote on a poster in Jerry's locker -- "Dare I disturb the universe?" -- and how it relates to the book as a whole.
What take-away do your teens have about whether Jerry's actions are positive or negative?
If you wantedto "disturb the universe" in your own way, how would you do it?
Who arethe most powerful characters in Cormier's book?
What does that sayabout the very nature of power itself?