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The Chocolate War

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
The Chocolate War Book Poster Image
A kind of "Dangerous Liaisons" for teenagers.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 22 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This book helps teen readers examine some of life's hardest questions, posing moral issues in a way that are guaranteed to start conversations.

Positive Messages

This book forces readers to face the reality of evil, and examine how to confront it. The effect is powerful and it lingers long after the book is shut and sitting on the shelf.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Is Jerry a hero? A scapegoat? Is his act of defiance negative or positive? The dilemma posed by the actions of the characters have good and poor role models. The Vigils order boys to vandalize a classroom and defy teachers. Abully steals gas, and forces a student to buy cigarettes. Brother Leondeliberately embarrasses students, hits one student with a pointer,ignores violence, and encourages the Vigils.


Fight scenes realistically and graphically described.


Several frank references to masturbation and to boys' fantasies about girls.


Conversations between teenage boys contain frequent use of moderate, and occasional extreme, sexual, bathroom, and religiously themed profanity.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymoviemadness April 9, 2008

Classic Tale

Violence, sex, and a manipulative priest makes this more suitable for 14+. Good book. Religious parents should know that religion is protrayed as dangerous.
Adult Written byMom in Maryland February 23, 2012

Burn it, and Ban it forever - Movie is R rated - book would be NC17

This is a terrible book. It has swearing, every word, you can imagine. It TEACHES kids HOW TO BULLY other kids, and get away with it, you might call it a manual... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bymoviegeek April 9, 2008


This is one of those books, that after you finish it and set it down, you have to sit awhile and think. It leaves you thinking "Wow...." and really ha... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old September 28, 2012

To read this book, you must get over the level of sexual content

This book has been banned in some schools and cities, and i can see why. It has some references to masturbation and dirty fantasies, but honestly that's ho... Continue reading

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 difficult read 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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • 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?

Book details

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