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I am the Cheese (book)

images/inline/iamcheese2.jpg” align=”right” title=”Who cut the cheese?”

“I am the Cheese”

By Robert Cormier

This is a much too long topic about a much too long book. I read “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier and loved it (you can of course read that review which is listed up above as well) so I thought, heck, if Cormier did such a good job with that book, why shouldn’t he do a good job with “I am the Cheese”?

Adam Farmer is apparently 14 years old (the reason I say apparently is because when you read the first half of the book they don’t really mention his age, and I was constantly asking myself…so wait–is this main character 18? 6? 25?). The book is written using two narratives. The first is an account of Adam trying to ride his bike for about three days so he can “reach his dad at a hospital in Rutterberg, Vermont.” The second narration is that there is a man who acts like a doctor (though Adam isn’t sure if he’s really a doctor or not) who asks Adam all sorts of questions about Adam’s difficult past.

Apparently Adam’s father was a news investigative reporter, and came accross some records indicating mob activity. Despite the danger to himself and his family, the father exposes the information. After a few threats and a failed attempt to blow up the dad’s car, they decide they now need to go into witness protection program.

The entire story, you are led to believe that Adam is in a hospital, just getting general counseling because of the difficult times he’s been through. The ending of the book, however, is great. Even though there’s a surprise ending, I’ll tell you about it because all in all I don’t really recommend the book. The ending almost made it worth it to read the book. But not quite.

We find out that Adam’s parents were *found and successfully murdered by the mafia about 4 years before the entire novel takes place. When Adam and his parents were looking at a pretty view on the side of the road, some mafia members just drove right up smashed their car into all three of them. Mom died from the crash, dad was chased down by the mobsters and brutally shot, and Adam…well, he survived, but he, ah, went a little crazy (after that kind of event it’s understandable).

images/inline/iamcheese.jpg” align=”left” title=”poor kid. gone crazy and all.”

So anyway, the first narrative–where he’s “riding his bike to Vermont to visit his dad in the hospital” is really just him riding his bike around the Troubled Youths Asylum he’s in, and his warped mind imagines all the other kids in the asylum to be characters in this big narration about him riding his bike for three days when really he’s only just riding around the Asylum grounds.

And the other narrative–the doctor questioning him about his past–turns out to be a FBI agent who has questioned Adam every year since the murders to see if deep in Adam’s warped subconscious he can provide any evidence as to what the murderers looked like. Once a year for three years, Adam has been questioned and failed to provide the needed information. After the questioning, Adam goes back into his own little world and forgets about the questioning ever happening until next year.

So when I tell the story there, it sounds pretty cool, right? Yeah! I mean, the concept is pretty great, and the more I think about it retrospect, the cooler it turns out it was.

So why don’t I recommend it? This was a novel that *should have been a short story. Every aspect of this book just seems to drag on and keep going and going until you’re sick of it. When he’s “riding his bike to Vermont” he rides and rides and rides and rides until you’re like, “Shit! We don’t need every stinking useless detail of his ride there!” And when the doctor’s questioning him, you think, “Adam, get to the freaking point! Adam, isn’t it obvious what the doctor is trying to get you to realize? Snap out of it!”

One interesting thing is that since the FBI agent has interviewed Adam three times before, asking him the same questions, getting the same crazy answers, the FBI agent sometimes gets impatient and wishes Adam would get to the point. This is quite interesting because I was wishing the very same thing.

And finally, adding to the ever-present controversy of whether Adam is a 4 year old or a 14 year-old is the fact that Adam’s favorite song (because it reminds him of dear old dad) is “The Farmer in the Dell,” the lyrics of which the author seems to have no reserves putting in the book about a hundred times (when you’re reading the book via a book-on-tape, hearing that song sung over and over again is very irritating.) It’s just a little annoying because there is one and *only one reason that song is inserted 100 times into the novel. It is to provide the book with a title–“I am the Cheese”–because Adam realizes at the end that his parents are dead, and since “the cheese stands alone,” Adam realizes that he is the cheese.

If I could call that “cheesy” without it seeming like a crappy pun, I would, but instead I’ll call it “trite.” Well, I suppose you have to give the kid some credit–he is gone crazy becuase he witnessed first hand the brutal slaying of his parents by heartless mobsters. It’s such a shame, really, because I think the book had such a great idea, but such a poor execution.

So, my gimmick for book reviews is that after I explain my thoughts and explain the book, I write my own synopsis for you to enjoy. So, here’s what I’d put on the back of this book (though it might not sell a lot of copies):

“Adam Farmer has a lot of ‘blanks’ in his life–questions he doesn’t know the answers to. All he remembers of his existence is that he *has to ride (and ride and ride) his bike to Ruttersberg, Vermont–a place that may not actually exist. But recently a mysterious man has been asking him questions about what happened to his absent parents. We as readers will uncover the shocking facts about Adam’s tragic past and troubled present that even Adam himself may never be able to rescue from his sad, repressed mind.”

images/inline/iamcheese3.jpg” title=”The cheese stands alone.”



1. robin stover - February 4, 2010

umm.. i thought this book was good

2. Andy - February 5, 2010

So did I–I just wish it had been a little shorter. Cut out about 100 pages of excess reiteration, and it’s a fantastic story!

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