Cormier for Young Adult Readers

This blog completes my trilogy of effective authors for young adult readers.

Two blogs ago, I talked about Edgar Allan Poe, certainly not a man who focused on writing towards the young adult market, but a man whose work can be enriched via graphic novels to appeal to students that age.

In my last blog, I wrote about Ray Bradbury, a man with great aspirations to appeal to both young and older readers.

This blog will concentrate on my third favourite author, Robert Cormier, a man who won awards for his gritty, sometimes disturbing, novels aimed specifically at the young adult audience.

Interestingly, I stumbled upon the writing of these men in different periods of my education: Bradbury when I was in elementary school, Poe when I attended high school, and Cormier when I was wading through Teachers’ College.

At Teachers’ College, I was given an assignment in which I had to choose a children’s author and write about why his writing should be seen as appropriate for the age range he represented. I had no idea as to who I would choose and I randomly selected Cormier. Never having read any of his work, I decided to read what is considered his greatest accomplishment, The Chocolate War.

I was devastated. Not only does Cormier capture teenage angst and sexual confusion so well, he does not provide the reader with a cushy, happy ending. The book ends the way that incidents in life often do and there are very few characters in the novel who get what they want.

Put off with my disillusionment I felt after reading the novel, I quickly picked up Beyond the Chocolate War, sure that Cormier had set us up in the first novel to feel sadness so that he could bowl us over with a happy ending in the second novel. I figured that this was a writer’s ploy.

Nada. He wipes us out again and our main character only suffers more hardship.

One would think that I would abandon Cormier all together; however, his writing only drew me in more and more. And each novel made me wonder how cruel some people can be and how innocent people can sometimes be rendered helpless.

So why would I recommend Cormier to young adult readers? First off, I would not recommend him to children below the grade 8 level. For those young adult readers at the grade 8 level and beyond, Cormier’s books will intrigue but not terrify students. I have taught students this age and I know that some have gone through the struggles that Cormier’s characters have faced. His hard-hitting way of writing about the dilemmas that pubescent kids go through is a good way of getting his readers to talk in maturity-defining ways. They might not want to discuss the details with parents but they always have that other valuable resource: people their own age. And talking with peers can be a positive occurrence.


About randycoates

Randy Coates graduated from the University of Waterloo with a bachelor of arts degree and went on to acquire his teacher’s certificate at the University of Western Ontario. He is currently an elementary teacher in the Toronto District Board of Education.
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