Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"I Am the Cheese" by Robert Cormier

Summary: Adam is riding his bike from his home in Monument, Massachusetts to Rutterburg, Vermont where he will deliver a package to his father.  In alternating chapters, he is also being interviewed by a man named Brint, gradually remembering and revealing his and his family's mysterious past.  Slowly Adam and the reader piece together the truth of Adam's history--and his present.

Musings: I have vague floating memories of this book from my past, which is only appropriate, given the content of the novel.  I believe my friends read it for middle school, but somehow I never did.  I remember them chanting "The cheese stands alone" and talking about how Cormier uses a real person's phone number (just looked it up and apparently it was Cormier's real phone number; crazy!) and feeling left out.  So I've now rectified that, a dozen or so years later.

I Am the Cheese is an "old" YA novel (published in 1977--older than me!), but it doesn't feel at all dated.  What I like most about the book is that it's part psychological study and part good old-fashioned mystery/spy caper.  The reader's kept guessing about the "truth" of Adam throughout the novel, but in an exciting--not exasperating--way.  The ending packs a nice punch while also wrapping up loose ends.  I'm left wondering if some aspects of the novel were meaningful or just red herrings, and I think that's a good thing.

I loved the structure of the book and the juxtaposition between Adam's single-minded conviction of his bike ride and the muddy uncertainty in his interviews.  The novel changes from first person point of view during Adam's bike ride to third person during his interviews, which helps jumble the reader's mindset and keep the reader uncertain. 

I Am the Cheese was a fun read that I'd highly recommend, especially to people who loved the ambiguity and questioning of the narrator found in the more recent Liar.


  1. This sounds like an interesting novel. At first I thought I hadn't heard of it before, but the phrase "the cheese stands alone" sounds vaguely familiar!

  2. I'd definitely recommend it! It's short and quick, but I loved that it was a mystery without being a traditional mystery.