Monday, November 5, 2007

Revisiting a Classic - The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but in the over five years of being a teen services librarian I had never read The Chocolate War. In fact, I don't know that I've read many of the classics. I seem to just want to read new publications because that is what my patrons are drawn to. The new book section is the favorite most frequently used (excluding DVDs of course) part of my library. I was just looking for an audio book to listen to one day and stumbled across this title and figured, hey, why not, I should give it a chance.

I'm glad I did. I ended up really enjoying it. The reading was done by Frank Muller and was absolutely fabulous. He did voices for all the characters that were in turn threatening, reluctant, imposing, and defeated. I found Brother Leon in particular to be extremely frightening.

What surprised me the most about The Chocolate War was the ending. I'll assume that no one cares about spoilers - if you do please stop reading. The ending was so...not uplifting. The villains of the story never get their comeuppance. They aren't punished, they don't lose, they aren't even mildly publicly humiliated. It was very strange. It was so disappointing to me, but at the same time felt so true I couldn't be too disappointed about it. I felt very conflicted. I desperately wanted Jerry to get his revenge. I really wanted Archie to pick the black ball out of the Vigil box and to have to enter the ring against Jerry. And of course, neither of these things happen. Jerry gets beaten so badly we are left wondering how long his recovery time will be and if there will be permanent damage. Archie is still secure in his position of Vigil leader and creator of dastardly plans. He seems unstoppable. I wonder if this is why I've heard so many people complain about this book. The ending is a downer, it smacks of real life and so many of us just want to read for escape.

I had some deja vu about the black box. I could have sworn I read a book where the same device was used. Except in my memory the kid did not have Archie's luck. It makes me think I actually read this book, forgot about it, and then mixed it all up in my memory.

No comments: