Monster – by Walter Dean Myers
Overall, I found this book interesting and worthwhile, but the story didn’t really appeal to me that much. The book didn’t speak to me—didn’t feel relevant to my life—and I think that’s to be expected since I am not this book’s target audience. Walter Dean Myers didn’t write this book for 23-year-old white girls living in the suburbs. That’s not to say anyone can’t enjoy it, and I did, but I think this book will naturally appeal more to teens who have more in common with Steve than I do.
Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. He got mixed up with a group of guys in his neighborhood in New York City who planned to rob a drug store. During the robbery, the owner of the store was shot and killed, and now Steve and the man who planned and led the robbery are in prison and on trial. It is never explicitly stated whether or not Steve was involved in the robbery, but it is clear through the words he writes that he is struggling with guilt. The more time he spends in prison and in the courtroom, the more trouble he has distinguishing between the way he sees himself and the way the people around him see him. The prosecutor refers to him as a monster, and he wonders if it’s true.
It’s easy to see why this might be a popular book, especially among teens in an urban area who might find a lot of relevance in this story. It’s a fast and easy read and is frequently reminiscent of courtroom drama TV shows. The story is told in journal entries and scenes of the screenplay Steve is writing about the trial. This makes the book seem much easier to get through than an average novel, which I’m sure is part of what makes it appealing to teens. It is also an interesting method because it puts the entire narrative in Steve’s hands and may lead the reader to question the trustworthiness of the character as a narrator, especially since his defense attorney tells him not to write anything in the journal that could help incriminate him.