“They murdered him.”
Cormier opens his 1974 young adult novel The Chocolate War with the sentence that has forever changed young adult literature. Before the publication of this novel, books for teens promised sentimentalized, happy and joyful endings and Cormier shattered the glass with the story of Jerry Renault and his struggle against the ruling body of his private high school.
Jerry, a freshman, attends Trinity High School and has been told by the Vigils (Trinity’s secret society) to make a stand and not sell the chocolate bars for the school fund raiser. After his “assignment” ends Jerry makes the bold move, asserts his own individuality, and follows the poster in his locker and disturbs the universe by continuing to refuse to sell chocolate. Because Jerry refuses to follow the Vigils, he pays a high price that includes a brutal beating by another student.
Cormier refused to alter the ending of his manuscript and therefore had to shop the book around before it was accepted for publication. To this day the book appears of the American Library Associations most frequently challenged books across America.