The head of Trinity College asks Archie Costello, the leader of The Vigils, a secret society that rules the school, to sell 20,000 boxes of chocolates in the annual fund-raising effort.
Archie sees the chance of adding to his power but newcomer, Jerry Renault, refuses to sell them.
Enormous mental and physical pressure is put on him but he will not give in - the result is an inevitable, explosive tragedy. The story continues in Beyond the Chocolate War. As the school year closes, many students look forward to leaving but Carter and Obie, leading members of The Vigils, can't contemplate the future until they have destroyed Archie Costello.
Robert Cormier's hard-hitting novels make compulsive reading.