Review of Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Review of Monster by Walter Dean MyersMonster by Walter Dean Myers
Also by this author: Kick, Carmen, All the Right Stuff, Sunrise Over Fallujah, Juba!, Monster: A Graphic Novel
Published by HarperCollins on 2009-10-06
Genres: Peer Pressure, Prejudice & Racism, Social Issues, Violence, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Trade
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five-stars

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 by Walter Dean Myers was the first Walter Dean Myers book I have read, and it certainly will not be the last. What a great way to become acquainted with the work of WDM. Seriously, I often see his books, own a few of his books, but never really felt pushed into reading them. I am glad I have finally started.

The plot of Monster by Walter Dean Myers centers around fifteen year old Steve Harmon, a black teen on trial for complicity in murder. Monster takes on a rather unique format as it is written in screenplay form.

I like that Walter Dean Myers played with form. Instead of being typical prose, we have this whole new, at least to me, way of engaging with the character and getting into his head. Steve sees his entire trial as a movie script. He divorces himself from the situation. It was sort of as though Steve could not handle the reality. I thought this was well played on Myers’ part.

“My job is to make sure the law works for you as well as against you, and to make you a human being in the eyes of the jury.” pg. 16

Astonishingly, I picked up on the social commentary within this book. As you will note, the title is Monster. In the eyes of judicial system, Steve is considered a monster, largely because he is young and black. Yet, as we get to know Steve, we see is more than that. He’s a smart kid. It seems that he is largely in the wrong place at the wrong time. I mean, I can remember becoming very angry with the prosecution. Right now, there is a disproportionate number of people of color incarcerated. I will go out on a limb here and say, it is not because people of color commit more crimes than white people, however, that is research you can do on your own time. Monster got me to questioning. Are we too quick to throw people in jail and throw away the key? Especially if the supposed perpetrator is young, black, and poor? AKA, what society deems as dangerous. I mean, take this book in a deeper context. Look at the title. Monster. Couldn’t that be a form of other-ing? Of dehumanizing PoC? I am absolutely thinking and questioning.

Then, of course, Walter Dean Myers tosses in a bit of moral ambiguity. We see that perhaps Steve is not quite so perfect after all. He never actually comes right out and says whether or not Steve was completely innocent and not complicit at all. I will say, I had my mind made up one way, and it stayed that way. I did like that he left it so the reader could decide and work it out. It is sort of like being on a jury. All you have is evidence and each person’s story. I mean, Steve absolutely does make a couple of bad decisions. But, really, I don’t know anyone who makes perfect decisions every single time.

If you are looking for a book that will make you think, and for a Printz winner, definitely check out Monster by Walter Dean Myers.

five-stars
About April (Books&Wine)

April is 28 years old and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. In her free time she can be found reading, working out, or eating junk food. She often wears her sunglasses at night.

Comments

  1. This was my first WDM too, and I was totally wowed by how much I loved this book.

    I love that you picked up on the jury thing. I thought it was a brilliant move on Meyers part!

  2. I see this book every time I'm at the bookstore and it always draws me to it but I've never picked it up. I definitely need to now! In fact, I think I might get it on my next trip. =)

    When I was a case worker I had a 17-year-old kid on my caseload who was charged as an adult in a crime. It's crazy b/c he carjacked a woman at gunpoint with his friends, yet I would catch myself saying he was a "good kid" lol. It's really sad b/c he did in a way end up in a bad situation and in many ways was a good kid. He was always great with me and I could see his potential. But then I look at it from the other side like if it were me or a loved one that was the woman who was carjacked, I wouldn't be feeling like that at all.

    I do agree with some of the points you made though. I definitely want to read this now!!

  3. This sounds absolutely fantastic. The social commentary especially sounds fascinating. I'd say that you are definitely right that we are often too quick to lock people up. This is going on my wish list.

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