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Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Chocolate War Vs. Breakout

I really love My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge. I have read a lot of Dangerously Challenging Books that I would have never picked up if not for this challenge. I really thought for sure that this month, with the YA theme, would be the easiest.

However, I'm sad to report I didn't like The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. I have read half-way and I'm giving up. I won't go on and on about it, but I thought the book was silly and the characters unbelievable. There is a private school, a secret society that controls everyone through fear, and an annual chocolate sale. I just could not find myself believing that a small group of teenage boys would actually be able to exert as much control as the Vigils, the secrety society in this book does. The whole book was about psychological manipulation, but so far the writing hasn't lived up to it. I could see all the surprises that were coming.

So. I'm moving on to Breakout. Which happens to be the title of a Paul Fleischman book.

Author: Paul Fleishman
Reason for Reading: YA Reading Challenge, My Year of Reading Dangerously
Rating: 4/5

Del's running away from home. She's been bounced from foster home to foster home all of her seventeen years, and she's finally rounded up enough money to fake her own death, change her name, and leave Los Angeles. The only problem is that once she tries to leave, she gets stuck in a monster traffic jam. The kind only LA has. The kind where you are stuck in traffic for the day.

Interspersed in the narrative is another traffic jam. This time, it is a one-woman play called Breakout that Del's written, inspired by the day she was trapped in a traffic jam 8 years ago.

This is a short, unusual novel. In fact, I don't even really want to call it a novel. It is, by way of style and character development, a lengthy short story. There are two scenes, no other narrative for Del.

So, traffic jams. In both narratives, the characters at first stay in their cars, then they shut off their cars, then finally when it becomes obvious that no one's going anywhere, they start getting out to mingle. The oddness of people interacting in this setting provides interest to the story.

If you are the mood for a quick, digestible read, this one might just hit the spot.


Alice Teh said...

That's an interesting blog title. For a moment I was thinking consuming too much chocs lead to breakout. Or something along that line.

Andi said...

I'm glad to hear you're loving the Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge, but I am bummed that you didn't like The Chocolate War. I picked that one for the challenge (having NOT read it) because it's one of those classic YA books that we always talked about in grad school. It's quoted in soooo many textbooks and soooo many articles, and quite honestly I've always thought the premise sounded quite stupid. BUT, I'll give it a go, although, admittedly, I don't have high hopes!

Eva said...

I read this one for Banned Book Week last year and I really hated it. I finished it, but barely.

Kim L said...

alice-heehee, that is cute.

andi-maybe you'll like it, but I was just not feeling it. I like being able to do substitutes, though!

eva-you made it more than I did! I wasn't into it, so I just gave up. Life's too short to read a book I don't like.