Book Club Pick: July 2015
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Series: Stand alone novel
Country: United States of America
First Published: 1999
The novel follows sixteen-year-old Steve Harmond, an African American teenager from Harlem, who is on trial for his role as an accomplice in a drugstore robbery that resulted in the death of an employee.
To help him process this life changing experience Steve records his experiences in prison and court in the form of a film script and diary. This experimental narrative gives the reader two forms of narratives – a deeply personal first person narrative in the form of a diary and a more distant third person narrative in the film script.
As someone who has studied film and is familiar with scriptwriting conventions at first I was bothered by the scriptwriting convention errors, which briefly took me out of the story. But I put this behind me as I have to remember this is the script written by a sixteen-year-old – not a trained scriptwriter.
The novel features illustrations by Myer’s son Christopher, who is a children’s author and illustrator in his own right.
The title of the book and Steve’s script ‘Monster’ comes from a label given to him by the prosecutor. Is Steve a monster? That is a question he will struggle with as he comes to term with his identity – how he perceives himself and how he is seen my others.
The novel poses some serious questions and themes for the reader to consider, such as to whether Steve is guilty or not and the fairness of the judicial system. The subject material is obviously gritty, it deals with prison violence and the subject of prison rape is implied.
I would recommend Monster to junior high school age students up.
On a final note, July 1st is one year since the passing of Walter Dean Myers. He may be gone but his work lives on!
Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library.