Published by Amistad on December 14th 2004
Source: Purchased Physical Copy
This New York Times bestselling novel and National Book Award nominee from acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers tells the story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial. Presented as a screenplay of Steve's own imagination, and peppered with journal entries, the book shows how one single decision can change our whole lives.
Fade In: Interior: Early Morning In Cell Block D, Manhattan Detention Center.
Steve (Voice-Over)Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. Maybe I can make my own movie. The film will be the story of my life. No, not my life, but of this experience. I'll call it what the lady prosecutor called me ... Monster.
Supports the Common Core State Standards
I have students who get excited when they see this book on my shelf. They will recommend it to other students and got excited when I started reading it.
Monster is a non-traditional narrative. The main character writes journals sometimes, but mostly he recounts what is happening to him by writing it out as a screenplay. There are also some pictures interspersed. Between this and the story, it is a great pick for struggling or reluctant readers!
For me, it was a difficult book to read. It wasn’t necessarily enjoyable, but it was thought-provoking and a quick read. Steve is a kid who has never been in trouble before, but finds himself accused of being the lookout on a robbery that ended in murder. That makes it felony-homicide, and he is now on trial to decide the rest of his life.
The book doesn’t give any clear answers. Is Steve a kid who fell into idolizing tougher older boys in his neighborhood and agreed to something illegal to impress them or is he really innocent and not involved at all? I know which I believe is true, but there is still doubt in me. Either way, I didn’t believe he should have been on trial for murder, especially when more culpable characters were given deals.
There is a lot to think about here, which is why the kids love it. When you read the news and someone says that anyone involved in a felony is responsible if there is a murder during that felony, that makes sense. What a great deterrent against crime! But it feels a lot different when you are facing down a kid who has never been in trouble before and is barely, if at all, involved. Then again, someone died. Someone should be held accountable!
This is definitely not an escapist read, nor a book to give you answers about our complicated world. This book forces you to examine your beliefs about crime, law, and race. It makes you sit with uncomfortable questions and think about how far from perfect our society is.