Robert Cormier’s novel I Am the Cheese is a chilling and thought-provoking work of young adult literature. The novel follows the life of Adam Farmer, from his lonely childhood to his time in a mental institution. As an unreliable narrator, he struggles with both memory loss and the knowledge that he has done things that are morally questionable.
The book opens with Adam returning home to this small town after his father’s death. He does not know why he was sent home, but he is desperate to return back to boarding school in Switzerland. When Adam returns home, he is uprooted from everything that he knows and is sent to live with his mother and her new husband, George. While living with George, Adam learns some very dark secrets about his father’s past and begins to wonder if George had something to do with his father’s death. In addition to learning about his father’s secrets, Adam also learns that he has telepathic abilities and can read minds when someone touches him. As Adam begins looking for answers about what happened to his father and who killed him, he meets Betty Jo, who becomes his only friend in this new strange place that he calls home. A lot of this book takes place at a local beach town called Pago Pago where Adam spends most of his time while waiting for answers about what happened to his dad.