Trinity is a contemporary Catholic boys’ high school in the States, run by an order of brothers. An organisation of boys called the Vigils, led by Archie Costello, runs things from behind the scenes. They select students for “assignments” either with a deliberate aim or just to relieve boredom. Jerry Renault is told to refuse to sell any chocolates in the annual school fund-raising effort. He accedes at first, but later defies the Vigils, ending up fighting Janza, the Vigils’ muscleman, and losing.

There are several disturbing things about this book and its sequel Beyond the Chocolate War. It is not clear if the author is trying to shock his audience with exaggeratedly bad situations or to “tell it how it is”. Either way, the book is not really fit to be read. There is very little positive to say about it; even those people whose actions are to be applauded in some way act for the wrong motives. The main points in the book’s disfavour are: a portrayal of the Catholic faith as something you do to keep your parents and/or school teachers happy, not something to take seriously; an attitude toward love that is almost wholly physical, with casual mention of sexual liaisons and fantasies; the domination of the school by the Vigils, with the connivance of the authorities and no sign of any let-up. It should be noted that there is no suggestion of impropriety on the part of the staff of the school, except for a certain over-ambition on the part of Brother Leon, the only significant teacher.

Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London.  He also is the editor of the “Good to Read” website.