Author: Walter Dean Myers
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!