Sunday, February 8, 2009


Myers, Walter Dean. Monster. New York, HarperCollins, 1999.
[Book cover credit:]

National Book Award Finalist (Young People's Literature, 1999)
A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book (2000)
ALA Best Books for Young Adults (2000)
Coretta Scott King Honor (Author, 2000)
Edgar Award Nominee, Young Adult (2000)
Printz Award (2000)
South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominee (2000)

After a man is shot with his own gun during a robbery, Steve is arrested and put on trial for being the lookout for the robbers. This is the story of his trial, written by Steve, as a screenplay.

The alternate format of Monster makes this an impossibly fast read given its almost 300 pages. That said, there is a lot going on in this book. Steve, through his screenplay, shows us an almost objective view of his court case and related flashbacks. His camera and character direction are the only things that betray his bias. This is contrasted with his handwritten journal that he keeps in prison during the trial. The raw fear that he shows in this format cannot help but to color the feeling of the clinical portrayal of the court scenes. The combination is at times chilling.

While we are limited to Steve's perspective of his trial and the events leading up to them, we can see, through him, what the people around him are thinking. This contrast between how we see Steve, frightened and trying to distance himself from the situation, and how the adults involved in his case, including his own defense attorney, see him is the main conflict of the book. This will appeal to many readers, but especially those who have been the victim of prejudices and stereotypes. Steve cannot get away from his young-black-man-from-the-hood image, even if it is placed on him rather than coming from him, which is something that many young readers can unfortunately identify with.

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