The Chocolate War

Common Sense Media says

A kind of "Dangerous Liaisons" for teenagers.




ALA Best and Notable Books

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Robert Cormier
Genre:Literary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 1, 1974
Number of pages:272
Award:ALA Best and Notable Books

This review of The Chocolate War was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written by67 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

A very interesting but chilling story!

Teen, 15 years old Written bymoviegeek April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


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 has a good message behind all of the bad stuff that the kids do. One kid stood up to everything and everyone. Because he knew that he was right. This is an incredibly well-written novel and is a must-read for any teenager.
Adult Written byfr0stedshad0w April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


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