Monster by Walter Dean Myers.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, 1999.
Teen fictional chapter book/screenplay, 281 pages.
Coretta Scott King Award Winner, Michael L. Prinz Award, National Book Award and more
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 5.0 points).
Monster is a complicated novel of a story-within-a-story. At first glance it is the straightforward tale of a boy who is accused of assisting in a murder during a robbery-gone-wrong, mostly expressed through his recreation of the trial as a screenplay and his diary notes from prison. But it is also the story of a criminal justice system where the mostly white cast assumes all the power over the mostly black “monsters.” Then there are also flashbacks that add more information about Steve Harmon and the other characters which call into question his real role in the murder. Meanwhile, we are seeing all of this through the lens of one desperate young boy – what is the truth?
Honestly, for a book to get this many awards and never attract my attention is very unusual. This book also has never been checked out of the school library I got it from. But opening the book, I’m not surprised. The format is challenging, the language certainly above the level indicated in many places, and the content seems aimed more at high school students in terms of the complexity of thought required to process the novel.