The Chocolate War

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For the film adaptation, see The Chocolate War (film).
The Chocolate War
The Chocolate War novel.jpg
Front cover of 30th anniversary edition [1]
Author Robert Cormier
Country United States
Language English
Genre Young-adult novel
Publisher Pantheon Books
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 272 pp
ISBN 0-394-82805-4
OCLC 722968
LC Class PZ7.C81634 Ch
Followed by Beyond the Chocolate War

The Chocolate War is a young adult novel by American author Robert Cormier. First published in 1974, it was adapted into a film in 1988. Although it received mixed reviews at the time of its publication, some reviewers have argued it is one of the best young adult novels of all time.[2] Set at Trinity School, a fictional Catholic high school, the story primarily follows Jerry Renault as he challenges the school's cruel and ugly mob rule. Because of the novel's language, the concept of a high school secret society using intimidation to enforce the cultural norms of the school, and various characters' sexual ponderings, it has been the frequent target of censors and appears at number three on the American Library Association's list of the "Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books in 2000–2009."

A sequel was published in 1985, Beyond the Chocolate War.


Jerry Renault is a self-determined and solitary first-year student at a preparatory, all-boys, Catholic high school called Trinity. Archie Costello, an intelligent, controlling, and apparently amoral older student selects Jerry to carry out an "assignment" for The Vigils, the school's influential secret society of student pranksters, who carry out "assignments" that range from ridiculous to cruel. The existence of the Vigils is known by Trinity faculty but neither officially recognized nor openly acknowledged. At the end of the novel, Archie concocts a final event for the chocolate sale: a boxing match at night on the field between Jerry and Emile, promising that whoever is the winner of the fight will also win back his dignity. The match is watched by all school's students.

Critical reception[edit]

The book was well received by critics. The New York Times wrote, "The Chocolate War is masterfully structured and rich in theme; the action is well crafted, well timed, suspenseful; complex ideas develop and unfold with clarity."[3]

Children's Book Review Service said "Robert Cormier has written a brilliant novel."

In an interview with Robert Cormier, he explained that he is "interested in creating real people, dramatic situations that will keep the reader turning pages."[4] He went on to say that although some adults dislike the book because of the topics discussed "the kids can absorb my kind of book because they know this kind of thing happens in life."[4]

The New York Times Book Review declared that "Mr. Cormier is almost unique in his powerful integration of the personal, political and moral"[5] and The Australian wrote that young readers "recognised his vision as authentic and admired his willingness to tell things as they are".[6] However, the book has been banned from many schools and it is one of the most challenged books of 2006 "for sexual content, offensive language, violence".[7]

Reviewers compared the book to A Separate Peace and Lord of the Flies.


1974 School Library Journal Best Books of the Year

1974 ALA Best Books for Young Adults

1974 ALA the Best of the Best Books for Young Adults

1974 New York Times Notable Books of the Year [8]

Film adaptation[edit]

The Chocolate War inspired the 1988 film of the same name, directed by Keith Gordon. It starred John Glover, Wallace Langham, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Jenny Wright and Adam Baldwin and Corey Gunnestad.


  1. ^ "The Chocolate War | Tattered Cover Book Store". Retrieved 2013-09-23. 
  2. ^ The Best Young Adult Novels of All Time, or The Chocolate War One More Time Ted Hipple and Jennifer L. Claiborne, English Journal, high school edition, January 2005
  3. ^ New York Times Book Review
  4. ^ a b Rosenberg, Merri (May 5, 1985). "Children's Books; Teen-Agers Face Evil". New York Times Book Review. p. 36. Retrieved March 9, 2011. 
  5. ^ Rochman, Hazel (May 5, 1985). "No Headline". New York Times Book Review. p. 37. Retrieved March 9, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Provocateur of Young Minds – Time & Tide". The Australian. December 6, 2000. Retrieved March 12, 2011. 
  7. ^ "The Most-Challenged Books of 2006". The Kansas City Star, The (MO). October 4, 2007. Retrieved March 12, 2011. 
  8. ^

External links[edit]