January 17, 1925
The Chocolate War
If young adult fiction “has one best-selling heavyweight writer … he is Robert Cormier,” Newsweek said in 1979. The magazine compared Cormier with such writers of serious adult fiction as Saul Bellow and William Styron. The compliment was based on Cormier's first three novels for young adults. He has written another eight books since.
Robert Cormier's books have unusual plots. They are suspenseful, and they make readers think. “I have always been interested in the plight of the individual versus the system, whether the system is the family, the school, the government or society in general,” Cormier said in Literature for Today's Young Adults. He said he is interested in creating characters that are credible as individuals and in developing situations that can bring shocks of recognition to readers. “And I'm willing to let these characters take me where they will, even if I have to abandon preconceived notions about a particular theme. What's beautiful about this is that I can deal with character and theme in a manner that satisfies me as an author and have my work accepted in the field of adolescent literature.”
It is Cormier's “hard-hitting unsentimentality that most sets him apart from other writers in his field, and some critics complain that he goes too far,” said Newsweek. For example, Booklist, a journal for librarians and bookstore buyers, put a black border around its review of The Chocolate War because it found the novel too violent and its ending too downbeat. Cormier responded in the Newsweek story, “As long as what I write is true and believable, why should I have to