We've got your back. With the Tough-O-Meter, you'll know whether to bring extra layers or Swiss army knives as you summit the literary mountain. (10 = Toughest)
(4) Base Camp
In I Am the Cheese, Robert Cormier challenges us with a handful of big words: claustrophobic (1.4), camaraderie (8.22), raucous (18.15). Oh, and Massachusetts (1.1). But a quick glance at the dictionary and a good sense of context allow us to figure those out.
What really makes this book difficult is its ambiguity: we're never really sure what's going on. And if you're waiting for the ending to clear things up, don't hold your breath. While there are a few "aha!" moments along the way, the second-to-last chapter is far from clear – even Shmoop had to read it a few times before the light bulb went on.
Why did we say the second-to-last chapter, not the last? That brings us to our next why-it's-so-tough point: the book has a double narrative – two stories are being told at the same time in alternating chapters.
All that said, I Am the Cheese is worth the mental pushups, and the writing style is clear and concise, helping balance out the complicated plot.