Tuesday, September 01, 2009


There is a certain comfort to re-reading a book. Sometimes I'll sit down with a book and savor it all over again. Other times I'll go back and re-read the "good parts". This past week I was working with the teen fiction collection and came across Robert Cormier's books. When I was a teen, I tried to read Cormier's books, but couldn't get into them. At that point in my reading, I was only reading horror, so it's no wonder that they didn't appeal to me then. So I was reintroduced to Cormier in college and fell madly in love with his style. His realistic fiction pulls no punches. You think you see where he's heading and then he makes a sharp left leaving the reader blindsided.

The Chocolate War is one of the first books to try to read. It was written in 1974, but it doesn't feel dated. Maybe it's because he doesn't throw in pop culture into his books, maybe it's because the topic is still to this day relevant. Jerry Renault dared to defy his universe when he declines to sell chocolates at his school fundraiser. Even in the face of school pressure, peer pressure, and physical assaults Jerry says no. I tell people that this is the book that made me want to be a teen librarian. It's the book that opened my eyes that books don't have to be black and white. They can be gray--mixed with hope and destruction. Just be warned, it can be a devastating read.

After the First Death is another novel that was published in the 70s but feels like it could be today. I re-read this one right after 9/11 and was amazed by how well Cormier wrote this tense thriller. A school bus has been hijacked by terrorists. Narrated by the bus driver (a teen girl), one of the terrorist (a young man), the army general negotiating the release, and his son, this novel is gripping. The title is based on the premise that it's easier to kill once you have your first kill done. The bus driver who was supposed to be a middle aged man is supposed to be the young terrorist's first kill.

and finally, I am the Cheese, is the most mind-bending of them all. Adam is on a physical journey to find his father and a mental journey to find his past. Told in two forms: present tense, first person during Adam's journey; and past tense, third person in interviews the story unfolds in ways you will never see coming. One of the touching things about Cormier is that he cared about his readers. He never wanted to disappoint them. In this novel, a phone number is very important. Cormier didn't want his readers to call a number and not get a response, so he put his own number in the book. DISCLAIMER: Mr. Cormier passed away in 2000, so the number no longer would have him at it.

Out of all the authors I've read and loved, Mr. Cormier is the one author I really wish I could have met. His books bring something new to me in every reading.

What books do you re-read over and over?

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