To parents and educators familiar with Cormier, I Am the Cheese will seem an extension of the author’s indictment of American government and society. Here, however, the author presents a harrowing vision of all society, not simply the isolated private school of The Chocolate War. A secret force manipulates the individual and the family, and its tentacles are everywhere. Some readers may take issue with the author’s image of hopelessness, interpreting his message to be that the innocent are inevitably crushed by the system. Yet Cormier implies that the individual has resources to resist and that a mind can never be put in chains.
The character Adam may be interpreted as a tragic figure or a hero. Surely he is noble in his desperate campaign to keep alive his father’s memory. On the other hand, his struggle may be simply self-delusion and the result of his own disturbed condition. Cormier’s ambiguity requires the reader to make judgments in this regard. Thus, the novel is ideal for an instructor or counselor trying to help young adults clarify their values.
Apart from this, the novel is free of potentially controversial passages, with the possible exception of a brief scene that suggests a homosexual overture from a man Adam meets en route.