Monsterby Walter Dean Myers Published 14 Dec 2004
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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 who is the prosecutor called me. Monster.
Fade In: Interior Court. A guard sits at a desk behind Steve. Kathy O'Brien, Steve's lawyer, is all business as she talks to Steve.
Let me make sure you understand what's going on. Both you and this king character are on trial for felony murder. Felony Murder is as serious as it gets. . . . When you're in court, you sit there and pay attetion. You let the jury know that you think the case is a serious as they do. . . .
You think we're going to win ?
It probably depends on what you mean by "win."
Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. A Harlem drugstore owner was shot and killed in his store, and the word is that Steve served as the lookout.
Guilty or innocent, Steve becomes a pawn in the hands of "the system," cluttered with cynical authority figures and unscrupulous inmates, who will turn in anyone to shorten their own sentences. For the first time, Steve is forced to think about who he is as he faces prison, where he may spend all the tomorrows of his life.
As a way of coping with the horrific events that entangle him, Steve, an amateur filmmaker, decides to transcribe his trial into a script, just like in the movies. He writes it all down, scene by scene, the story of how his whole life was turned around in an instant. But despite his efforts, reality is blurred and his vision obscured until he can no longer tell who he is or what is the truth. This compelling novel is Walter Dean Myers's writing at its best.
amended review, with spoilers:
are all teen books written in eye-catching, typographically unconventional ways?? or is it just this one reading list?? i have nothing really to say about this book, except that for a sixteen-year-old boy in jail, it might benefit him to adopt less girly handwriting. kids, stay out of jail. don't associate with criminals. don't lie about your involvement because any close reader will notice, and you will be screwed. and, really, less girly...
i have just returned from my teen lit readers' advisory class and everyone just ooohed and ahhhed over this book and even though i read it last summer, the gushing reaction of everyone else made me drop a star from my previous rating. no. no. no. it is not "gritty and edgy", this is absurd. and a close reading of this book reveals several inaccuracies that pretty much solidify the fact that despite the narrator's repeated claims that he is innocent, well, he's not. at all. and so basically, this book becomes one long lie about a character avoiding responsibility for a shitty thing he did, and couldn't even lie well enough to effectively get out of. and greg's review points out what a shitty low--reward crime it was. i am sick of people who are not prepared to accept that their actions have consequences, in fiction or otherwise. be a man. although, with that handwriting, you are probably more likely about to learn what it is like to be a woman.
This is my most recent reading of a book I've already taught two or three times in ninth grade English classes. This is a great book for people who don't necessarily enjoy reading. The movie script format means the action moves quickly and may make it more appealing to people who enjoy movies a lot. Myers doesn't give too much away about the story either, which both builds suspense and leaves the reader with something to think about and to talk about. The 16 year old protagonist who is on trial for allegedly participating in a robbery that ended in murder is realistic, sympathetic, and interesting.
here there be spoilers. just sayin'.
So, i lobbied to add this book to my curriculum for 10th grade low levels next year. it's a quick read (although i suspect much less so for them) but it actually presents some very interesting ideas about identity, racism, guilt/innocence, and justice. the kids will all fixate on whether or not they think steve is guilty, which is sort of the crux of the action (he's on trial, suspected of being a "lookout" for a botcohed robbery of a convenience store where one man was murdered). because it's not made expressly clear, the reader essentially has to choose for themselves what they believe and it brings up the question of legal vs. moral innocence (i'm thinking casey anthony would also work as a nice tie in here - can you be found not guilty but still be, in a sense, condemned for what you've done).
personally, i think steve is guilty. i think his screenplay attempts to distance himself from not only prison but from the crime itself - he is on the outside looking in on himself and who he was/is. i don't think he ever intended anyone to get hurt, and that's why he desperately looks for some semblance of humanity in himself.i don't think there was any way, however, for walter dean myers to actually find him guilty in a court of law and still have the message work effectively. it would have made the book about the crime, not the person, if that makes ANY sense at all.
of course, i should have probably considered the deeper implications of that artistic decision. if steve can't even take responsibility for his decisions in his screenplay, and then gets away with murder, well, what the hell sort of message is that?
“They take away your shoelaces and your belt so you can’t kill yourself no matter how bad it is. I guess making you live is part of the punishment.”
Monster is a few different things. Most noticeably, it's a page-turner written in the unique form of a movie script. But it also analyzes the main character and his choices of morality.
Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon was convicted of being an accomplice in a murder and robbery. Terrified he's going to end up in prison for life or get sentenced to death row, Steve tries to distract himself by keeping track of the events in jail as the case plays out.
This was a short, thought-provoking read. It was a powerful punch highlighting an African-American boy's hard life, what it's like to experience prison, and what it means to be guilty or innocent.
The ending didn't wrap everything up, which I think is the reason this book didn't get very good ratings. When I first finished it, I too was frustrated with the ambiguous ending that left things a little too open.
But the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated the ending. Myers purposely left it open so the reader could decide what had happened on their own. In a way, the reader is supposed to give Steve the verdict: Guilty or not guilty?
This was a look at a boy's character who may have got caught up in a terrible crime. I thought it was a great reflection on different kinds of people—the criminals, lawyers, judges, and witnesses were all distinctly developed.
I found it very interesting and a complex look at human beings' actions.
This book is AWESOME! I highly recommend this book to people who struggle getting through books. It is a quick read, but a necessary one!
Learned about it from this article about a book club for black boys.