Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Myers, Walter D, and Christopher Myers. Monster. New York, N.Y: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999. Print.ISBN-13: 978-0064407311 Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. Paperback $8.95.
Info 684 Genre: Classic
What does it mean to be “guilty” or “innocent?”
Monster follows 16-year-old Steve Harmon as he recounts his experiences in prison, and during his court case, where he is being tried as an accomplice to murder during a robbery-gone-wrong. Unable to accept that he’s really in this situation, Steve recounts his experience largely in the form of a screenplay, where he and everyone else are ‘actors’ starring in his real-life drama. The daily court scenes are mixed with nightly journal-like entries where Steve reflects on the day’s events, his prison surroundings and fellow inmates, and the steps that have led him to this point in his life.
As we read, we ride intimately along inside Steve’s head throughout the trial as he thinks about guilt and innocence, life in prison, suicide, truth and lies, and the perception of who he is. At the end both the reader and Steve are left to decide what really makes someone a Monster.
My take: I think you guys will be immediately pulled in by this suspenseful and uniquely told court-case drama. The story moves along quickly, and the characters taking part in the trial are so interesting (and dislikable) its hard to put this book down. The journal-like entries let us see inside Steve’s head while he deals with the terrifying experience of not only the trial, but of being in prison as well. The unique writing style, relatable characters, mystery, and suspense make Monster a compelling and intense read. This is an excellent addition to any library and any personal collection for young and old.
Themes include: Prison, the nature of truth, lost innocence, crime, identity, peer pressure, and dehumanization.
Awards: Michael L. Printz Award and Coretta Scott King Award in 2000.
About the Author: Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014) was an African American writer. He grew up mostly in Harlem, New York with a speech impediment. He defines himself as having done poorly in school and as frequently responding to teasing by “leading with [his] fists.” He dropped out of high school to join the military at age 17, but often found solace through reading, and later, at the urging of a beloved English teacher, in writing. Since then he has expressed himself through writing, and defines himself as writing “books for the troubled boy I once was, and for the boy who lives within me still.” You can read more of his bio at his website.
- Find Monster at a library near you at OCLC’s Worldcat, the world’s largest library catalog!
- If you liked Monster you can find similar titles at Goodreads.com.
- See what other Teens have to say about Monster at TeenInk.com.
- Debuting in October 2015 is Monster: A Graphic Novel, a black & white graphic novel interpretation of Monster.
Citation & Credits
Book cover image: Courtesy of Amazon.com
Review: Kelsey Bogan. 2015. All rights reserved.
“Walter Dean Myers.” Walter Dean Myers. Web. 27 June 2015.
Walter Dean Myers. “Monster.” Online video clip. YouTube.com. 8 April 2014. Web. 27 June 2015.
Myers, Walter Dean, & Sims, Guy A. “Monster: A Graphic Novel.” Amazon. Web. 27 June 2015.