Jerry Renault isn’t participating in the Catholic school’s annual chocolate sale. He’s the only child who dared to opt out of the optional fundraiser. His defiance may only get him a few nasty glares from the teachers, but when he challenges Holy Trinity’s underground student-run society, things get heated.
Ummmm, I don’t get it. I really, truly don’t. The whole time I was reading it, all I could think was, yeah, so what? The kid doesn’t want to sale some chocolates. Get over it. Then, I remembered it’s a “modern classic” and it must have something more to it than just that. So I racked my brain. Then I forgot about it. Then I racked it some more. And now I’ve come to the conclusion of I don’t get it.
The only possible answer I came up with to the literary genius hidden in between the pages of a meager chocolate sale is the theme of corruption. The Vigils (the secret society) begins with harmless hazing pranks and rather too serious meeting rituals. Okay. Yes, all the teachers know they’re there, but nobody acknowledges them. The boys can continue to pretend they have a top-secret club and the teachers can continue to not care. Perfect balance. They tell Jerry to not accept the chocolates for 10 days, then begin to sell them. Instead, he never accepts them. With that act of disobedience, the system crashes. The administrators panic and turn to The Vigils for help. The Vigils steely stance refuses to be swayed by one boy, so they take measures to the extremes to keep the balance. Yet it’s too late; the scale has already been tipped. And everyone loses.
I think there is more to it than that, though. I may be wrong. I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t get it. Otherwise, I thought the writing style was interesting. It was third person omniscient, and there are plenty of characters to go around. The reader jumps from Jerry to The Vigils leader to the lead teacher to the agreeable boys who want no trouble at all but get caught in the fray all the same.
Honestly, though, I thought it was kind of boring. How much can you really write on a chocolate sale? I kept waiting and watching for the climax, and while it did make an appearance at the very end, that made the conclusion weaker. The pace of the book was too slow for me.
Also, this is just a little nit-picky thing, but I didn’t like how Cormier describes girls. The boys go to an all boys private Catholic school, so they’re always on the look out for girls at the bus station and such. But as a girl, I felt extremely awkward the way he described things like their bodies. Ew. It’s not even a feminism thing or anything, it was just a little weird. But I guess it’s just more of a guy book.
It wasn’t great, but it definitely wasn’t bad. I admit, though, for a modern classic, I felt disappointed.