I Am The Cheese
The Chocolate War
I’m not reading these challenge selections as quickly as I thought I would, but this tends to happen when I savor a story. The below novels were certainly savored.
From the moment I pulled this copy of I Am The Cheese off the library shelf, I knew it was the one I read almost ten years ago. The tears in the cover may have been taped by me. Tiny pieces of the front cover corners are missing; paperback corners and I don’t get along. I remember pulling it from the shelf so many years ago after being humored by the title. I loved that little paperback shelf. Even though this section of the library has changed drastically since then and this copy of the book has had much wear and tear, I know this copy is mine. My mental fingers are imprinted on the book, not to mention it probably got that funky smell from my dance bag.
I would be lying if I insisted part of this summer reading challenge was not created so I could have an excuse to reread some of my favorite books. I Am The Cheese is one of those books I’ve been meaning to revisit. My first read, years ago, was exciting. I recall going to the bench outside between dance classes just to get enough peace to immerse myself in the book. After this most current read, I still get a sense of urgency as the main character, Adam, makes a perilous journey on his bike. The real suspense, though, is in his recorded conversation with a psychologist.
This juxtaposition is part of what makes Cormier great. I didn’t feel very much happened as Adam was traveling, but I whizzed through these parts of the book as if I were racing from city to city just as Adam was. Slow-paced conversations loaded with information never interested me when I was growing up, and yet Adam’s dig through his past almost induced a sense of the panic he was feeling. Vaguely remembering how the book ended while starting over was a bit like watching Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island after having read the book; nothing was a mystery any more, but the progression of the story was a curious tale when revisited.
If you wish to read (or reread) this book, I suggest gobbling it up in 2 to 3 sittings. It goes fast, yet the 200 pages are almost too much.
I try not to understand politics because wrapping my mind in them would send me to the Betty Ford Clinic. But oh, my gosh. The football goal posts! When they were brought up in the last chapter, I had to search the beginning for when Obie was staring at them the first time. (If you don’t know, read the book. Just go.) Without this imagery, the plot would have disappointed me slightly; tell me more about Archie’s hunkering for Hershey bars or perhaps a backstory for Brother Leon (always the villain lover I am). The goal posts gave me chills, and I’m glad for it. I’ve never even had school spirit, but it was easy to see the importance of this chocolate sale to give the school money. Cormier published this during a time of questioning in America’s history, and his character Jerry’s confusion at the poster “Do I dare disturb the universe?” is curious to people from all times.
Every adult should read this book. They might pick up the subtleties surrounding the chocolate sale. Then again, children would be better frightened from the violence and psychological torment the students put on each other. Children and Catholic school-goers alike would be afraid of the teachers—Leon in particular. I’m sure only adults and boys would understand the mentions about jacking off.
Why did I take so long to read The Chocolate War? I don’t typically care for sequels, but I must know what Cormier thought might happen to these characters and to this school. I expected to write more on this book since Cormier is most famous for it, but I have no words. I liked this book tremendously and have no words. Within the next ten years, I hope to reread this. I also hope to read more Robert Cormier in the future, but not necessarily this summer.
5 titles down, 47 to go.
Days left: 74
I’m off to feed a cold with Roald Dahl.