Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Chocolate War

by Robert Cormier

Sometimes I read a classic and think, "Seriously?!" This is a fantastic book, though, and it deserves to be a classic of young adult literature. It's a bit controversial and over the years has been challenged (as the American Library Association calls it when some wingnut tries to have a book removed from a library or school curriculum), but, as anyone with sense can realize, the bits to which censors object are often the very same parts that make the book challenging and edifying to read. In this case, the story includes violence and bullying, as well as some sexual references. I wonder, though, if some of the haters are actually more disturbed by the way the adults are portrayed as mostly disinterested and, in one major character, frankly despicable.

Bottom line: this book is good enough that I read the whole thing in one day — and then watched the movie version a couple hours later. In addition to being a freakin' amazing late '80s time capsule (the main character is the same actor who played Wyatt in Weird Science, and the clothes! and the music!), the film does a good job capturing the characters' complexities. As movies often do, however, it kind of butchers the ending; I don't know what I'd have thought of the ending if I hadn't just read the book that day, but it barely made sense to me compared to the original ending.

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