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Beyond the Chocolate War

by Robert Cormier
Series: The Chocolate War #2
288 pages, Contemporary
Reviewed by Clodsley S.

Exciting sequel is a lot more inappropriate than the first novel.

Plot

It's been almost a whole school year since the chocolate sale incident, but the Vigils at Trinity High School are still giving dangerous assignments to the school's students. Jerry Renault, the victim of one of their pranks, is still recovering from his last encounter with them. There is, however, dissent in the ranks among the Vigils. Archie Costello, their leader, senses that two of his right-hand men, Carter and Obie, are beginning to doubt him, especially when he goes too far with one of his schemes - having the entire school not attend the bishop's visit.

Morality

Most of the characters are manipulative and will do anything they can in order to get what they want. They are all twisted in some way, and there's really no difference between good and evil in the novel, even among the teachers at Trinity.

Spiritual Content

Trinity High School is a Catholic school, but the religion is portrayed as being very "pious" instead of reverent. The bishop comes to visit the school, and a mass is held for a dead teacher.

Violence

A boy is still recovering from previous injury in a boxing ring that is briefly described a few times. He is beaten up again in an alleyway. A young man contemplates suicide (unfortunately, he later goes through with it) and imagines killing a teacher at his school. He later threatens the teacher in his classroom.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Though drugs are briefly discussed at times as well as alcohol, none of the characters in the book do drugs or drink.

Sexual Content

Obie daydreams about his girlfriend Laurie. In one scene, they touch each other inappropriately, even though she insists that he should stop. A rape is briefly described and then discussed afterward. Archie makes a crass comment about male anatomy. An obscene gesture is also used.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

"D-mn", "h-ll", "sh-t", and "a--". The Lord's name is taken in vain (i.e., "Oh my G-d", "Thank G-d" used irreverently).

Sometimes the Vigils will make people stand in front of school without any clothes on if they swear during a meeting.

Conclusion

While Robert Cormier was a terrifically talented writer, his works often lacked morality. Although this story takes place in a Catholic high school, none of the characters show any respect to their God or their fellow man. It is also violent and heavy on language and sexual content. While the writing is entertaining, the novel isn't really worth reading, unless you are a mature reader and know what you're getting into.

Fun Score: 4
Values Score: 1
Written for Age: 13+

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