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Who are you really? Is your presumed identity really yours? What would you do if you discovered the life you lived and everything you had come to know and trust was a lie and you were no more than an impostor? What if the control you presumed to have over the events of your life wasn't really yours? What do you do? Who can you trust? Such are the questions that haunt "Adam Farmer" in Robert Cormier’s novel, I am the Cheese.

After years of growing up as "Adam Farmer" in Monument, Massachusetts, Adam Farmer discovers that his parents have been keeping a disturbing and life altering secret from him. As a result of his father’s involvement with the government & exposing the criminal agenda, Adam and his family have subsequently been placed in the Witness Protection Program. Although kept secret from him for many years, all begins to unravel when a reporter from a small town inquires about his family's history and their relationship to Rutterburg, Vermont. In order to discover the truth of his family's life and death, Adam must, with the help of his doctor Brint, uncover, unravel and dissect the secrets of his past.

"Yes, I wonder, what happens next? Or, rather, what happened back then? And I don' t know. I don't know. Then the terror comes. Yes, that's when the terror comes" (162).

Though told through flashbacks, this mystery engages and enables readers to delve into the story and extract truth from amidst the garbled and falsified memories bottled up within Adam. The identity of Adam's doctor, Brint, is left up to the reader. It is here that the reader must decipher the truth in order to learn his identity and purpose. "he knew also that he had to revel everything to him, that he could not do it alone." (178) A phenomenally twisted ending and surprising change in point of view leaves much room for discussion about the surprising fate of Adam and his family. Who is to blame for the lies that surround this boy? Who is the Gray Man? Who is Paul? And where is his family?

"And always, Adam, there are the Never Knows, Never knowing who can be trusted" (156).

I Am The Cheese offers many avenues for discussion. Since such a story is told in flashback, many discussions are available as to why Cormier would choose to reveal this story in such a manner. Along the same lines, word choice, point of view change, form, vocabulary and aesthetics, delay of character names, and reoccurring imagery can also lead to insightful and intriguing discussion. Cormier's novel also presents the opportunity to discuss with your students reader response and the method which they use to read. For example, Adam’s father loves book. We know this as a result of Adam's remarks on pages 29 – 35. Such an observation could lead to a discussion as to why Adam’s father loves book and how students within the class read. Tying this discussion in with the book gives a level of purpose to the discussion and provides the students with a concrete character to use while discussing their reading habits.

Though I am the Cheese is thriving with opportunities for insightful conversations, teachers need to be aware that there are aspect of Cormier's novel which need to be addressed in the classroom in order for students to be able to become involved with the book. Early discussion of changes in point of view will help student who seem to be experiencing difficulty understanding the flashbacks and rapidly changing point of view. Additionally, the scene containing Adam's parent’s death is graphic and may need to be approached cautiously and sensitively for students who may have experienced the loss of a parent or the death of someone close to them. Though these are daunting tasks, the amount of insight this books gives to the construction of identity and literary conventions make it a valuable asset to any teacher. The suspense will keep your students turning the pages and the content will create a lively classroom discussion. I Am The Cheese is truly an enjoyable experience for everyone.


Additional Links:
About the Author - Information about the author.
Sparknotes - Sparknotes for book. Includes summary of all the chapters, and character information.
Teaching the Novel: A Guide for Teachers - Includes summary of the book, list of media adaptations, themes, lesson plans and other useful tools for teaching the book.
Witness Protection - Offers an overview of the witness protection program, which answers some common questions such as, who is eligible and what are the risks?
Study Guide - Study guide for I am the Cheese written by Robert Cormier. This website only provides an excerpt of each section that you can look at, but you can review it and see if it is something you would like to purchase if you will be using this book long term.
Discussion Guide - A discussion guide for I am the Cheese. Includes questions, a synopsis of book and related resources.
Lesson Plan - A great creative lesson plan for I am the Cheese
Interview - Robert Cormier answers some questions about I am the Cheese.

Additional Books by Robert Cormier:
Most of these include a plot synopsis and pertinent information regarding the text.

Novels
Collections
Nonfiction
I Have Words to Spend (1991


A Student Film: How a student perceived the ending of I Am the Cheese.