Not everyone wants you to read Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War. When released in the early 1970s, the novel was indifferently reviewed by critics. It nevertheless became a major success, and that is where Cormier’s troubles began. The depiction of secret societies and anarchic students was troubling to some parents and school officials. Thus, like The Catcher in the Rye and other landmark novels before it, The Chocolate War became one of the most frequently banned books in the United States. Cormier himself has often spoken out against this kind of censorship and, despite numerous attempts at suppression, The Chocolate War remains one of the most popular young-adult novels ever. Readers are drawn to Cormier’s keen understanding of the pain and confusion universal to the adolescent experience.
- Cormier worked for a newspaper for more than three decades, and many of his books were inspired by real-life stories.
- The Chocolate War was turned into a film in 1988 by former actor Keith Gordon. Critics have overwhelmingly preferred the book, as is the fate of most film adaptations.
- Among his many influences, Cormier has cited Look Homeward, Angel author Thomas Wolfe as one of his most important. Cormier even tried, unsuccessfully, to copy Wolfe’s style when he began writing.
- Cormier’s first professional success as a writer happened without his knowing it. A college professor sent one of his works to a writing competion. It won, and Cormier earned his first paycheck as an author—$75.
- Cormier considers talent to be only part of the equation in his success as a writer. He puts equal, if not greater, emphasis on discipline.