Monster, by Walter Dean Myers

Monster, by Walter Dean Myers

Title: Monster
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Pages: 281
Publisher: Amistad
Copyright: 1999
Format: Paperback
Rating: [rating:4]

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Monster won the Printz Award in 2000 – the very first winner of the award. So, of course, this counts for the Printz Project!

From the publisher:

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 was kind of a gut-wrenching book. Steve is stuck in jail pending his trial for murder – he allegedly served as the lookout during a robbery gone bad. At sixteen, he has to deal with the realities of jail, as well as the possibility that he might spend the rest of his life in prison. As a narrator I found Steve to be both reliable and realistically confused, which gives the book an honest, forthright feel. The use of the script/film technique pushed both Steve and the reader to view the situation in different ways. Some of the most touching scenes revolved around Steve, as filmmaker, trying to understand how others see him.

What I liked most about this book was that it was about Steve. While there is definitely commentary on the criminal justice system, that commentary is only there are as a result of Steve’s personal story. I’d recommend this one as an interesting and personal examination of one teen’s – fictional – experience with the criminal justice system.

Monster, by Walter Dean Myers [rating:4]

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