Having just finished Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War, I am only slightly less speechless than after my completion of Lord of the Flies. Cormier creates a dark world from a setting (an all-boys Catholic high school) that one would consider complete darkness implausible without the hope of a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is an on-coming train. And while a few of the characters, Brother Jacques, Jerry, and Goober do stand out as light in this dark world, ultimately evil reigns with no hope of a sequel.

 Other than not having a happy ending (as I am a sap and an admitted sucker for a positive and even moralistic twist), the often two-dimensional characters frustrated me. Not until about page 200 did I find the characters believable in the setting in which they were located. The lack of strength in the characters, combined with the less than happy ending, and the often times hyperbolic metaphors were distracting; however, there is no doubt that Cormier is a writer.

Why is he a writer is the question that I find myself asking? His setting is a school–seems simple enough for a YA book. His characters center around the students and teachers of the school, with very little mention of families. In fact, when Jerry’s father is brought into the story, it feels like he doesn’t belong. The only true characters in this story are those that have some connection to Trinity.

And then there are the obvious religious themes. The book is set in an all-boys Catholic high school named, of all things, Trinity. Brother Leon has a strange resemblance to the devil, specifically in the ending fight scene. Archie is so slippery and sleek that he represents the snake in the garden (always pulling out the white marble and never the black, because his evilness is disguised as good). Jerry, Goober, and Brother Jacques stand firm for the good side, and yet in the end… evil wins out.

But you know what they say? Life is like a box of chocolates…