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I Am the Cheese
by Robert Cormier
The title comes from the last verse of the children’s musical game, “The Farmer in the Dell.” Nevertheless, Cormier is more of a suspense novelist for young adults than a children’s writer. This is a profoundly disturbing story, in which a lonely and vulnerable boy is led to question his memories, his identity, and even his sanity, beginning when he starts to realize that his parents haven’t been telling the truth to him all along.
It alternates between the story of a long, interstate bicycle journey the boy takes in search of his father, told in the first person, and a third-person account (partly in the form of tape transcripts) of the boy dredging up partially buried memories for a person who is never clearly identified as a shrink, but who claims to want to help him to remember everything. The closer the boy gets to figuring things out, the more the suspense builds, until the truly awful, heartbreaking climax.
Be warned: This book does not have a happy ending. In fact, it’s somewhere between depressing and sinister. So if you’re expecting something more redeeming, look elsewhere.