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 13 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 27 reviews

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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 bysharons9 February 19, 2016

No point to this book

The poor kid gets beat up and mistreated again and again, with even the people who should have put a stop to this nonsense turning a blind eye. Don't even... Continue reading
Adult Written byCarolen May 20, 2019

There's so much bad in the world, I don't understand a book that adds to it.

I guess I'm Sally Sunshine, but I don't care for books that are negative throughout. I didn't see anything redeeming in this book. Its message se... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bypumpkinpieswith... January 16, 2021

The Chocolate War

We recently studied this book in our English and Literature class. The book does outline the harsh truths of society and discusses themes like Psychological Man... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byCooltiger37 August 15, 2019

A review of both books (the above ratings are an average of the ones they both get)

THE CHOCOLATE WAR: 5/5 stars, 14+. Yes, it's controversial. Yes, it contains some pretty edgy/shocking content (masturbation, brutal fights, and profanity... 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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