Monday, November 8, 2010

Title: Monster
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Pages: 281
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Publisher: Amistad (Harper Collins)
Release Date: April 21, 1999

I had my eye on this one for a while and finally decided it was time to pick it up. This would have made a great read-a-thon book because of its unique and engaging style of writing. Ah well. But it's definitely a quick and enjoyable read that also gives you something to think about.

Steve Harmon is a 16-year-old African American boy on trial for a murder he may not have committed. Steve has been sitting in jail awaiting his trial and is terrified at the thought of being sentenced to 25 years to life. Prior to going to jail, Steve was a high school student and enjoyed his film class. So in order to quell his anxiety, Steve turns his trial into a movie script. Each chapter started off with a few pages of Steve's writing that are either similar to a journal entry or are in the form of "notes". The following pages of each chapter are the movie script of what is going on around him, including the production instructions including what camera angles to use... (focusing in on the jury, long shot of the courtroom, close up of the defendant, etc. etc.)

The majority of the script is the trial itself which is the mechanism through with the reader learns what may have happened (keeping in mind, of course, that not all the witnesses may be motivated to tell the truth). In a few scenes, Steve flashes back to give the reader a glimpse into what his life was like prior to being arrested.

Monster lacked the big punch at the end that I had somewhat anticipated but did contain some more subtle messages about truth and prejudice. For instance, Steve's attorney, though creating a great defense, actually believes he committed the crime because of her prejudice. Though this isn't a major part of the story in any way, it contributes to the illustration of this concept; and in one moment near the end, Steve finds himself confused at her actions because of his naivete to said concept. Monster was an easy read but one that clearly presented some social issues that could lead to discussion!

Monster was the winner of the Michael Printz Award for Young Adult Literature in 2000, was a National Book Award finalist in 1999, and was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book in 2000. Definitely worth checking out!


christina said...

Dean is a popular author with my students even though I've never actually picked up any of his works. I think that he is really boy-friendly and reluctant reader - friendly.

I admit, I did pick this book up a couple of years ago to see what it was all about but never stuck with it.

Helen's Book Blog said...

I liked this book when I read it and recommend it to my high school students often. They have all enjoyed it so far and it gets those reluctant readers to come back for more!

Zibilee said...

I have heard a little about this book, and think it sounds very interesting. I like the film-making angle, and I also think it sounds sort of suspenseful. Though the ending was not what you were expecting, it does indeed sound like a great read, and one that I bet my kids would appreciate as well. Thanks for the awesome review, Jenny!

Nikola said...

Wow, this really *does* sound unique! I'm sure I'd love the movie aspect. And you're right, it does seem just right for the readathon.

Jenny said...

-Christina: I could definitely see that... I've noticed he has a lot of other books about sports and stuff.

-Helen: Hey, anything that gets people/kids reading more!!

-Zibilee: I think this would be a popular one for kids. =)

-Nikola: It was a fast read!

Carin S. said...

I had this one on my shelf for 10+ years and never got around to it. Last year a friend was over, helping me change out some light fixtures, and he brought his 11-year-old son. Son was bored and I worried that would lead to bad things, so I gave him a book - this one. He loved it. Dad said he wrote a book report on it for school and got a good grade. Kind of wish I'd read it at some point before I gave it to him! Alas. But I know it found a very good home.

Stephanie aka The Stark Raving Bibliophile said...

I read a memoir by this author and enjoyed it a lot. Monster sounds like something I'd enjoy. I like novels that explore issues in subtle ways.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

His books are incredibly popular with our area schools. They seem to be bought up around the beginning of the school year. I have never read any of them. Interesting story, good review!

Meg said...

When I worked at a bookstore, I had teens pouring in by the droves for this book -- either as required reading or because a friend had recommended it. Glad to hear it's thought-provoking, and a worthy read!

irisonbooks said...

It sounds very much like a book I would like to read :) Unlike many of the commenters above I had never heard of it before!

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