Jorgina's Reviews > I Am the Cheese

I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier
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Sep 22, 2008

did not like it
bookshelves: youth, not-worth-reading
Recommended for: NOBODY
Read in September, 2008 , read count: 1 regretfully

Wish I had NEVER read this book. Required reading for my 10th grader so I read it first. Starts out good, keeps you reading even if it does bounce back and forth in time. Then it ends horribly, suddenly without resolving anything and with no hope no finality. It just ends where it begins. It does give you the endless circle that a mentally disturbed person must feel but GOSH! Why, during a youth's most unsettling years of self doubt, low self esteem, bouts of depression, hopelessness; the teen years, why would a teacher want them to read a book like this?> I will ask her and report back.
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02/20 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-34 of 34) (34 new)

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message 1: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Coming from a Teen who read the book, it was excellent. It was better than anything I have touched in High School. Brilliant Book.


Tessie I hated this so much.


Jorgina Cindy wrote: "Coming from a Teen who read the book, it was excellent. It was better than anything I have touched in High School. Brilliant Book. "

Brilliant because.......? Could you expand? was it the writing, the dialogue, the concept, the ???


message 4: by Cara (new) - rated it 1 star

Cara I have to say I read this book when I was 14 (the age of the protagonist) and most of the time I was just confused, frustrated and plain disappointed. I don't even remember the whole thing but I just knew I hated the book. It's hard for me to see what people liked about it. Shrug. Who knows.


Jorgina Cara wrote: "I have to say I read this book when I was 14 (the age of the protagonist) and most of the time I was just confused, frustrated and plain disappointed. I don't even remember the whole thing but I ju..."

I wish Cindy would expand on her Excellent rating.


Tra-Kay It ends with absolute finality: the report shown in the last pages says - I don't remember the wording - that they will either kill Adam or keep him there until he dies. It ends with his parents dead and him retained for the remainder of his life, and that's where he begins imagining the trip to help his father again. An inescapable loop. So there IS finality, but yes, not hope.

I think that the reason this book is recommended to teens is because they are considered to be maturing, and part of that is the capacity to deal with endings that aren't always happy. Children's books aren't allowed to do that. There is still a lot to get from a story that ends on a note of despair - perhaps more. I guess a good metaphor is bitter tastes, like coffee or beer. They're considered adult, because kids like sweet stuff.

...on that note, I really prefer happy endings, too. But I thought this book was very interesting and emotionally gripping.


Rowena why does a book need to have a happy ending? young adults aren't children anymore.


Jorgina Because they have a sense of not belonging, not knowing who they are, somewhat troubled, and yes prone to depression because of self pressure, parental, societal, and peer pressures and expectations. Everybook this teacher had my daughter read that year was tragic and meloncholy. My daughter was already battling depression and was troubled. When do they receive hope or good feelings at school? Not in this class...


Jorgina And besides, they did not discuss the books to examine feelings, meanings, interpretations, symbols, etc. Just read and report. What good is that ?


Tra-Kay It's a personal sentiment of mine that if something doesn't give a person good feelings, but even bad ones, there ought to be a meaning or effect that makes it worthwhile. I think this book has that, but I agree that if your daughter did not understand them and wasn't helped to, it probably wasn't worth whatever negative feelings it gave her.


message 11: by Boone (new)

Boone I'm 30, when I was 13 I was assigned to read this book in school. I started it but soon realized there was a movie version available at the video store. Watched it and was depressed by the ending, which I believe is fairly close to the book. It is pretty hardcore for an early teen to read something like this; the ending of the story has always stayed with me.


Callie Rose Tyler Why, during a youth's most unsettling years of self doubt, low self esteem, bouts of depression, hopelessness; the teen years, why would a teacher want them to read a book like this?.....all those reasons are exactly why they should read this book. Just because you couldn't connect doesn't mean no one else will, it was one of the few books I read in high school that I really liked.


Stacy Pershall My sense of not knowing who I was and my feeling of not belonging were exactly the reasons I adored this book as a teen. It's also very beautifully written. I fell in love with Robert Cormier's work in adolescence and still revisit it as an adult.


message 14: by Christine (new)

Christine It is a great example of an unreliable narrator. Once they are done with elementary school, they are not just being told happy little stories. They are being taught how to read literature.


Callie Rose Tyler Christine wrote: "It is a great example of an unreliable narrator. Once they are done with elementary school, they are not just being told happy little stories. They are being taught how to read literature."

well said!


Jorgina Pushing someone into the deep end of the pool and hoping they will learn to swim is not very wise. There is a way to step up to this level of literature...


Jorgina Oh, and I forgot to mention that this same teacher assigned 6, thats SIX, depressing and/or tragic novels in a row...


message 18: by Christine (new)

Christine By tenth grade they should be up to the task. This is an optional read for our 8th graders - along with many other choices. But much of what is required tends to be very serious and depressing. In our JH they teach Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451. Everyone starts HS with Night and Anthem. Thank God for Jane Austen or it would all be so very tragic!


Callie Rose Tyler Life IS tragic, and reading a book cannot hurt you, it cannot 'drown' you. It is the best way to learn about tough issues. I think most children could do with being a little less sheltered.


Jen  ~The dreamer~ I believe I read this book when I was in the 7th or 8th grade. After that, we read Lord of the Flies, Alive, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451 and many others. Why are we always needing to push happily ever after onto our children? This world isn't a fairy tale and we shouldn't tip toe around sensitive subjects. I remember blowing through this book in school and reading it over and over again. I found it like nothing else I had ever read. My teacher then gave me the book, Pardon Me, You're Stepping on my Eyeball. I remember looking at her like she was crazy. But this book was also fantastical, in my opinion. Maybe some teens aren't up to a complex, emotional book or too caught up in the Twilight generation where happily ever after and a sociopath protagonist are expected?


message 21: by Robby (new)

Robby "Pushing someone into the deep end of the pool and hoping they will learn to swim is not very wise."

Great analogy. I too am concerned about the direction of YA literature. The problem is, while some kids may be ready for darker themes--and even benefit from such material--others may not be as emotionally developed and suffer adverse effects.

It's a tough issue, but my general stance when it comes to kids is, air on the side of caution.


message 22: by Christine (last edited Jun 25, 2014 07:28PM) (new)

Christine I understand your concern. But I think that the vast majority of the time parents are overreacting and think that their children are more fragile and unaware of these issues than they are. I had kids in my school who were, as 6th graders, reading an alternative book to The Giver because their parents thought it was too shocking for them. Instead they were in the library talking about which episode of Criminal Minds was their favorite. Do they never watch the evening news? Is there anything in that book that is more disturbing than what is on the evening news? It is naive to think your JH student is not already aware and thinking about all of these issues, much less HS.


Callie Rose Tyler The whole concept of children's literature and especially YA literature is relatively new if you take a step back and look at literature as a whole. Society has decided to lengthen childhood significantly allowing people to mature slower and be coddled well into their twenties in some cases. There was a time when the teen years were an introduction to the workforce and maybe even married life. The idea that a teenager is not able to read this book because it is too depressing is very strange to me since most teens are dealing with or thinking about even tougher situations and themes.


message 24: by Robby (last edited Sep 30, 2014 09:21PM) (new)

Robby "Society has decided to lengthen childhood significantly allowing people to mature slower and be coddled well into their twenties in some cases."

How can you say that when you admit that we're thrusting 12-year olds into adulthood by bombarding them with adult themes in literature?

And what are these tough situations that teens are dealing with while they're being coddled?


Callie Rose Tyler Robby wrote: "How can you say that when you admit that we're thrusting 12-year olds into adulthood by bombarding them with adult themes in literature?"

Are you talking to me? Because if you are you have missed my point. My point is that these are not "adult themes" they are themes that are relevant to teen readers. By tough situations I mean violence, sex, abuse, drugs, crime all the subjects and themes that overprotective parents try to shield their teens from. I don't know where you are getting this "thrusting 12-year olds into adulthood by bombarding them with adult themes in literature" from because that is not at all what I have said.


message 26: by Robby (new)

Robby I guess I misinterpreted your words.

My point is that teens *shouldn't* be dealing with all that stuff. Such things aren't natural tenets of adolescence and adolescence is difficult enough without them.

By putting such themes in literature, we normalize them and young people can easily be impressed with the idea that such things are just part of growing up.

It takes an extremely skilled and responsible writer to handle adult themes in such a way as to prevent this.


Callie Rose Tyler Robby wrote: "I guess I misinterpreted your words.

My point is that teens *shouldn't* be dealing with all that stuff. Such things aren't natural tenets of adolescence and adolescence is difficult enough without..."


Perhaps we just come from different walks of life, but these types of things are a normal part of adolescence. I had classmates that were dealing with strung out or abusive parents, others who were terminally ill, one of my friends was dealing with the aftermath of being a rape victim and I struggled with two deaths, two friends that committed suicide. These are things that teens deal with and they need to be represented in the literature that teens read. Even if a teen is not dealing with these topics directly they are surrounded by them, they are a very real part of life. Isn't the purpose of adolescence to grow into a healthy adult? I just don't see what ignoring reality accomplishes.


message 28: by Robby (new)

Robby Perhaps we just come from different walks of life, but these types of things are a normal part of adolescence.

I understand that they ARE a normal part of teen life. I simply feel that the goal should be to remove some of them from the normal lives of future teenagers. This will never happen if we adopt a "just the way it is" attitude and continue to normalize such things in popular culture.

"Isn't the purpose of adolescence to grow into a healthy adult?"

I believe it is. But I don't see how any of the content we're addressing can help achieve this.


Callie Rose Tyler Robby wrote: "Perhaps we just come from different walks of life, but these types of things are a normal part of adolescence.

I understand that they ARE a normal part of teen life. I simply feel that the goal sh..."


Addressing issues is helpful, ignoring them isn't. Experiencing something through a character allows teens to reflect and learn. How can a teen grow to be an independent thinker and fully developed adult if they are sheltered from reality during critical developmental periods? Not including these topic in literature will not remove them from the lives of future teenagers, as you seem to be suggesting. If we never mention sex in books will teens stop having sex? Obviously not, it's just illogical. Does a kid pick up Crank and decide to take drugs, no it just doesn't work that way. If anything, the child who reads the book will be less likely as they have seen the effects through the experience of the character.


message 30: by Robby (last edited Oct 03, 2014 06:33PM) (new)

Robby Not including these topic in literature will not remove them from the lives of future teenagers, as you seem to be suggesting.

I've never suggested anything of the sort.

What I'm talking about is psychology. Once kids (and the rest of us) get it in their heads that "such is life", then it becomes a self-perpetuating "prophecy". What they need to be presented with are alternative realities that don't include such unnecessary violence and trauma. It's about hope.


message 31: by Robby (last edited Oct 03, 2014 06:56PM) (new)

Robby Christine wrote: "I understand your concern. But I think that the vast majority of the time parents are overreacting and think that their children are more fragile and unaware of these issues than they are. I had ..."

The fact that kids get so much negativity and violence from everywhere else is the very reason they don't need to be exposed to more of it in books. Also, some kids are strong and resilient but some are indeed still fragile and impressionable.

The problem is, teenagers are nihilistic and self-destructive. Hence, they are naturally drawn to darker themes. More and more, today's YA writers seem to be indulging those darker preferences. Why not, it's easier just to give them what they *readily* want. And it increases your odds of getting published.

But it's a mistake. I believe that. And I apologize to Jorgina and everyone for hijacking this board but I felt that it had to be said.


message 32: by Christine (new)

Christine Robby wrote: "Christine wrote: "I understand your concern. But I think that the vast majority of the time parents are overreacting and think that their children are more fragile and unaware of these issues than..."

Robby - There is no need to apologize. I think these are all well argued points on all sides. As is clear from my earlier posts, I think that kids are not as fragile as we make them out to be. They read what they are ready for. I struggle to find a balance between what my students who are in tough situations want to read and what would be traumatizing for those more sheltered kids. I can tell you that some of them deal with situations that no child should have to. Parents get divorced, deported, imprisoned. Children lose their homes, siblings commit suicide. Parents abandon them. They suffer from mental illness, or their parents do.

They are becoming aware of the world. They watch the evening news - Putin, ISIS, ebola, Boko Haram, Kony. They are learning about civil disobediance, moral courage and revolution. It is my greatest wish that every student live in a reality that is absent of these disturbing themes. But it isn't the truth of the world.

And many kids do not relate to, for example, the Hardy Boys. I love the Hardy Boys and I recommend them often. But I also have students who cannot think of this kind of book as anything but elementary fluff.

That being said, I do agree that the line is getting pushed farther than I am comfortable with. I appreciate your thoughts on this topic and will continue to consider your very reasonable points as I select and recommend books.


message 33: by Robby (last edited Oct 08, 2014 04:23AM) (new)

Robby Christine wrote: "Robby wrote: "Christine wrote: "I understand your concern. But I think that the vast majority of the time parents are overreacting and think that their children are more fragile and unaware of the..."

Christine,

Thanks for hearing me out.

I too understand (or like to think I do) both sides of the debate. And I wish there had been more books about abusive and severly dysfunctional families when I was a child. I'm not at all in favor of coddling or insulating teenagers. Rather, I believe they should be steadily exposed to adult-type themes, but in a gradual way with certain content being reserved for the later teen years. I can imagine how--as a teacher--it can be extremely challenging to regulate a child's reading material, especially when they're each at different points of development. But I admire that you at least attempt to do so, and that you try to get in touch with kids on an individual level.

To be clear, it's only the violent, lascivious and wantonly nihilistic material that I find troubling (and I should qualify "violent" to mean sexual or gratuitous violence). That said, I believe there are many challenging themes to be explored that don't revolve around these things.

General thoughts to writers:

Exposure to adult themes does little--if anything--to equip a child to deal with the realities of those themes. Moreover, adolescence is such a tumultuous period with the prospect of adult life such a daunting one, it seems almost cruel to add to the sheer overwhelmingness of it all. However, I can't judge your book, Mr. Cormier, until I've finished reading it.


message 34: by Christine (new)

Christine I think another significant point Jorgina made is that the book was assigned reading. In this instance the book is for a 10th grade class which, in my opinion, is an age appropriate selection. But it is an important distinction.


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