Every boy enrolled at Trinity knows that the two powers running their New England school are Brother Leon — a teacher and the acting Headmaster — and the Vigils, a secret society led by Archie Costello. In the classroom, Brother Leon is a monster and any student in his presence knows to give him complete, submissive attention. Archie, himself, is an equal master of intimidation. But in the face of Trinity's financial troubles, Brother Leon calls for a truce and enlists Archie and the Vigils to help in the sale of chocolate to raise money for the school. Every boy is expected to volunteer and sell his quota of 50 boxes.
A freshman named Jerry Renault refuses to go along with the plan. Since his mother's death, Jerry has watched his father sleepwalk through life and he is determined not to do the same. He even hangs a postcard in his locker that encourages him to "disturb his universe." Despite his small build, Jerry battles his way into the quarterback position on the football team. And he will not let Brother Leon, a teacher he despises, bully him into selling chocolates. At first Jerry's stand inspires awe in his fellow students who commend him for going against Brother Leon. But then it becomes clear that his position also goes against the will of the Vigils, and Jerry finds that if he wants to disturb his universe, he's going to have to fight — and maybe die — doing it.
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults, The Chocolate War is a powerful novel, full of humor in its characterizations of the boys at Trinity, but also brutal in its honesty in recounting how each of the boys behave. Robert Cormeir's painful story certainly stands with the classic Lord of the Flies in describing the potential darkness in everyone.
"Masterfully structured and rich in theme; the action is well crafted, well timed, suspenseful." — The New York Times Book Review
"The characterizations of all the boys are superb." — School Library Journal, Starred Review
"Compellingly immediate... Readers will respect the uncompromising ending." — Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
An ALA Best Books for Young Adults A School Library Journal Best Books of the Year A Kirkus Reviews Choice A New York Times Outstanding Books of the Year