The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

Four stars, read for Banned Books Week in 2011.

No one is kidding when they say this is a dark book. You wouldn’t think a novel about a school chocolate sale could be that interesting, much less controversialbut then, The Chocolate War isn’t really about a chocolate sale. It’s about all the darkest aspects of human nature: how people hate anyone who chooses to be different because it undermines their own security; how the strong prey on the weak, and how the strong aren’t actually that strong at all, but are in pain like everyone else and taking it out on anyone smaller, and in the end life is an infinite chain of hurting and being hurt.

Like I said: dark. But it’s good, and not only do I think kids shouldn’t be prevented from reading it, I think it’s probably important for them to read. Things don’t seem to end well for the kid who dares to disturb the universebut then again, we’re also very aware of how different things could have been if just one of the other links along the chain would have chosen to break free. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything in this book that a teenager doesn’t have the right to know about.

“I can sympathize,” Cormier said of parent concerns about his novel. “I know there are sensitive kids and sensitive parents. My problem is when they want to prevent other people from reading it.”

Published 1974. Fourth most challenged book from 1990-1999, third most challenged from 2000-2009.

Reasons challenged: offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.

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