I am the Cheese is written almost exclusively in the present tense, much of it first-person. This always takes some getting used to for me. Robert Cormier’s novel begins with a boy, of undetermined age, biking to see his dad. This is no short trip, but one that will cross state lines and no doubt place the boy in some degree of peril. This is where the first-person, present tense really adds to the book. It creates a sense of immediacy, putting the reader in the moment right along with the character.
The second chapter begins with what appears to be a transcript from a recorded interview. After a page or two, it is obvious that the person being interviewed is the boy on the bike, and that the interviews are taking place after the bike trip. The chapters alternate this way throughout the book, allowing the reader to slowly piece together the story and fill in the gaps that Cormier intentionally left blank.
I am the Cheese is relatively short, well-written, and an easy read. It was published back in 1977, winning many prizes and awards. I liked Cormier’s style and am planning on reading other works of his.Now to track down that VHS.