I read this in 7th grade when my English teacher decided I needed some literary guidance as my reading level was way above the set books.
It wasn't the book he recommended but I knew it was my type of book just from the blurb.
It is one of those book that you never forget, it makes no attempt to sugar-coat the truth and I found it quite disturbing.
Even before reading other reviews bleak came to mind as the best description both of the story and Cormier's language.
For me it was one of the steps leading from childhood to adult maturity. A realistic description of how people can be trapped and manipulated, how some survive and some don't.
A classic of YA literature!