Cormier’s next novel, I Am the Cheese, was a departure from his first success in a number of ways. The multiple points of view of the first novel become, in the second, a mosaic of perspectives that challenge the reader and build the tension in the novel until its very last word.
Even the innocuous opening of the novel—“I am riding the bicycle and I am on Route 31 in Monument, Massachusetts, on my way to Rutterburg, Vermont, and I’m pedaling furiously”—raises mysteries: Who is riding, and why? The second chapter only adds to readers’ confusion, for it starts with a transcript of what appears to be a counseling session between a boy, Adam Farmer, and a psychiatrist. Is Adam trying to recall his own lost history, or is his interrogator trying to get information from him?
What is slowly revealed, as Adam uncovers his past for the reader and for the mysterious Brint, is that his father had been a reporter for a small New York State newspaper who discovered evidence of government corruption and testified in Washington about what he knew. When attempts were made on his life, Anthony Delmonte joined a witness protection program, and he and his wife and small son, Paul, were given new names and identities and moved to Monument, Massachusetts. The new identities do not shield them, however; Grey, the government contact responsible for the family, is apparently a double agent. The family is forced to flee Monument, and Adam’s...
(The entire section is 580 words.)