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It's been over ten years since The Chocolate War (1974), but the action in this sequel takes place only a few months after the original ugly doings at Trinity High--a boys' day school in drab mid-New England. The Vigils, the secret society headed by cold, manipulative senior Archie Costello, is still going strong. Brother Leon, the slimy teacher who has become Archie's quasi-partner in dictatorial evil, is now the Headmaster. And the one student who stood up to Archie in The Chocolate War--Jerry Renault--is at home, still recuperating from the physical/psychic damage of his doomed attempt at individualistic defiance. As the end of the school year approaches, however, two of Archie's longtime student-henchmen will become increasingly disaffected, secretly rebellious. Carter, clumsy super-jock and Vigils "president," is horrified by Archie's latest scheme--a plan to humiliate both Brother Leon and the Bishop (!) during an upcoming assembly; so he sends an anonymous warning to Brother Leon. . . and suffers the consequences when Archie (a subtle tormentor) finds out. Meanwhile, Archie's sometime confidant Obie, in wild love with Laurie Gundarson, loses interest in The Vigils; when Laurie is nearly raped by a trio of Vigils henchmen, Obie loses her--and vows revenge on Archie (who inspired but didn't order the attack). Still, though Obie is clever and gutsy in his scheme to humiliate and frighten Archie on Fair Day, he finds that his hatred has made him into someone just as monstrous as Archie (near-fatal tricks with a magic-show guillotine)--while Jerry Renault decides, after another run-in with Vigils violence, to return to Trinity High, ready to "outlast" the bullies rather than fight them. Cormier overdoes the gangland-style villainy and mayhem this time around. (There's also the suicide of one of Brother Leon's student-victims.) The tangle of power/violence/evil themes involves some heavyhanded summations and more than a few unconvincing moments--especially when it comes to Obie's near-murder of Satan-symbol Archie. But, for the many fans of The Chocolate War: another dark, intense melodrama--with another downbeat, Evil-Goes-On ending.
Pub Date: April 21st, 1985
ISBN: 044090580X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1985


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