Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Book Addict Dares You To Read: Monster by Walter Dean Myers

I love having the opportunity to challenge people to read books that I personally found compelling or interesting or just all out fun.  But I want to know what you think?  Have you read the book?  Did it stick with you?  If so, why?  If not, why? _________________________________________________

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
Order Online:
Author Info: Goodreads | Website
Rating: 4 stars
Borrowed this book from the library after reading this article.

In A Nutshell:
Written like a movie script--Monster has many characters that make it unlike any other book I have read.  It peaked my interest and left me asking myself questions even as I closed the last page. 

The scene opens in a courtroom--the actors are playing the parts of judge, jury, attorney, and defendant.  At least that is how Steve Harmon has decided to cope with his own felony murder trial--as he would a project for his film club.  He writes it all down as a screenplay and through that screenplay and the journal-style notes we get insight into how he feels, what he thinks, and how the proceedings affect him.

Walter Dean Myers handles a very bad and ugly situation with finesse and ingenuity.  The honest representation of the horrors of living in a prison surprised me in a young adult novel--but the way he handled it did not necessarily overwhelm me.  I was affected by the representations--but I was not turned off from the story.  I was able to keep reading.

Actually, I was compelled to keep reading.  The way that Walter Dean Myer set up the book, the reader is essentially like a juror.  In the beginning we do not know if he is guilty or innocent--we make our decision as the story progresses through the trial the same way the jurors do.  We also have to face our own perceptions of the proceedings.  Do we assume that the defendant must be guilty if he has been brought to trial? Or do we assume the defendant is innocent until proven guilty?  I have never been a juror--but as I read this book I began to notice my own natural inclinations. The effect of that self-awareness has stuck with me.

But we as readers also have some extra insight that the jury did not have.  We can hear Steve's thoughts and see his perceptions.  We can see how his attorney interacts with him outside of the courtroom.  We get glimpses of how the trial affects his family.  Together it puts together a complex picture of the effect a trial of this kind can have--and it is a different from the victim-focused perspective I normally see in books about trials.  Yes, we learn about the victim but this story belongs to Steve.

But the ending was complicated--at least for me.  The jury does vender it's verdict (and I will not spoil it for you!).  I agree with the jury's verdict based on what we as the reader get to see of the trial, witness testimony, and jury instructions from the judge.  But agreeing with the verdict of guilty or not guilty does not mean that I am completely sure whether he was guilty or innocent--and I am not entirely convinced that his lawyer was sure of the answer either.

This book has inspired me to read more by this author.  My next book by him will be:


  1. I actually have read this book! I read it a long time ago though, and I seriously didn't think anyone else even knew about it. It did stick with me and I few scenes I still remember, I no longer own it though so I can't re-read it.

  2. I had not heard of it until I looked up Walter Dean Myers after he was named Ambassador for Young People literature. I had not heard of him until then--but now I cannot wait to read more of his books! :)