Sunday, March 7, 2010

Monster, by Walter Dean Myers

Monster, by Walter Dean Myers. New York: Harper Tempest, 1999. ISBN-10: 0064407314; ISBN-13: 978-0064407311. 281 p.

Plot Summary
Steve Harmon is 16 years old and black, and he's on trial for murder. He was asked by some friends to be a lookout during a drugstore robbery, but when the owner is murdered, the boys are all arrested. Steve writes of his courtroom experience, using the format of a movie script. Will he be convicted of a murder he swears he didn't do?

Critical Evaluation
Steve's authentic voice provides a real look at the hellishness of the prison experience. While Myers resists the temptation to editorialize, the reader is left contemplating the issues of race and prejudice inherent in a system where most prison inmates are young black men. The screenplay format is an interesting twist that allows Myers to show what happened without passing judgement.

Reader’s Annotation
Steve is 16, black, and on trial for murder. Will he be convicted, or will he walk free?

Author Information
Walter Dean Myers was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia in 1937, but was raised in Harlem. He dropped out of high school and joined the army on his seventeenth birthday. Before he left school, one of his English teachers told him to keep on writing no matter what else happened to him. He took her advice and has published over 70 novels for children and young adults. A full list of his books, as well as other author information, can be found at

Issue novel, alternative format (screenplay)

Curriculum Ties
Sociology: the American prison system

Booktalking Ideas
-Steve's fear and hatred of being in jail
-the courtroom trial format--stage a mock trial?

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 9+. I'm much older, but I still really enjoyed this book.

Challenge Issues
None that stood out to me, which may be surprising, considering the subject matter. Nonetheless, a librarian should still be familiar with this book, which has often been considered a classic of the YA issue novel genre.

I included this book because it was mentioned in Cole's book Young Adult Literature in the 21st Century. Issue novels aren't a genre I read a lot, so her suggestions were very helpful to me.


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