Myers, Walter D. 1999. MONSTER. Ill. by Christopher Myers. New York, NY: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-028078-6
2. Plot Summary:
Told from sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon’s point of view, Walter Dean Myers puts us right in the middle of a murder trial that could very well end up with a guilty verdict. Myers two formats to convey Steve’s thoughts; through diary-like narratives we see what it is like to be in prison and in film script format the courtroom trial unfolds. What will the jury decide?
3. Critical Analysis:
Award winning novelist Walter Dean Myers spins a chillingly realistic tale of what it is like to be on trial for murder. Through journal entries and script like texts the saga of the courtroom proceedings and Steve Harmon’s thoughts and fears become jarringly clear. The gritty dialog makes the characters jump from the page as the readers can imagine themselves sitting in the courtroom as a juror member or family friend. “KING- Yeah. All we need is a lookout. You know, check the place out—make sure ain’t no badges copping some z’s in the back. You down for it?” Christopher Myers’ stark pencil illustrations bring Steve to life. His sometimes blurred images reinforce the doubt and confusion that Steve feels. Myers brings in the reality of prison life by including sounds and images into Steve’s journal writings. “There was a fight just before lunch and a guy was stabbed in the eye. The guy who was stabbed was screaming, but that didn’t stop the other guy from hitting him more. Violence in here is always happening or just about ready to happen. I think these guys like it—they want it to be normal because that’s what they’re used to dealing with.” Steve’s conscience and his frustration about the consequences of his decisions drive this story and make it a gut wrenching, coarse journey into right and wrong. Readers can identify with Steve’s moral dilemma of self-punishment and pity. He is greatly disturbed by the effect his actions have had on his family. This eye-opening tale of one man’s decision to be in the wrong place at the wrong time gives us all reason to reflect that even the smallest choices can lead to greater problems.
4. Review Excerpts:
Coretta Scott King Award Winner 2000
Reviewed in BOOKLIST. “The tense drama of the courtroom scenes will enthrall readers, but it is the thorny moral questions raised in Steve's journal that will endure in readers' memories.”
Starred in HORNBOOK. “Myers adeptly allows each character to speak for him or herself, leaving readers to judge for themselves the truthfulness of the defendants, witnesses, lawyers, and, most compellingly, Steve himself.”
Reviewed in SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL. “It's an emotionally charged story that readers will find compelling and disturbing.”
Other books by Walter Dean Myers:
SCORPIONS. ISBN 0-06-024365-1
THE RIGHTEOUS REVENGE OF ARTEMIS BONNER. ISBN 0-06-440462-5
WON’T KNOW UNTIL I GET THERE. ISBN 0-14-032612-X
Other related books:
MAKING UP MEGABOY by Virginia Walter ISBN 0-385-32686-6
TEARS OF A TIGER by Sharon Draper ISBN 0-689-31878-2
FORGED BY FIRE by Sharon Draper ISBN 0-689-80699-X
Find and read scripts and screenplays. Investigate the notes about camera angles and shots, etc.
Visit a local jail or police station to take a tour
Have students write about what they think Steve does after the trial