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Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monster (original 1999; edition 2001)

by Walter Dean Myers

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3,0662541,852 (3.67)1 / 52
Monster is a young adult drama-novel by Walter Dean Myers and published by Harper Collins in 1999. While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon records his experiences in prison and courtroom. In this novel he tries to come into terms with the course his life has taken. Steve Harmon is accused of acting as lookout for a robbery that left a victim dead; if convicted, Steve could serve 25 years to life. Although it is clear that Steve did participate in the robbery, his level of involvement is questionable, leaving protagonist and reader to grapple with the question of his guilt. An amateur filmmaker, Steve tells his story in a combination of film script and journal.
Myers combines an innovative format, complex moral issues, and an intriguingly sympathetic but flawed protagonist in this cautionary tale. The “handwritten” font of the journal entries effectively uses boldface and different sizes of type to emphasize particular passages, but makes the novel hard to read. The film script uses movie script jargon, such as camera angles (CU, POV, etc.), and explains each term when they first appear. Myer’s son, Christopher provides the black-and-white photos, often cropped and digitally altered, that complement the text. The script and journal create a fascinating portrait of a terrified young man wrestling with his conscience. The tense drama of the courtroom scenes will enthrall readers and question the complex morals in the novel. Descriptions of the robbery and prison life are realistic, but not overly graphic. The subject matter is more appropriate for high-school students because of the portrayal of violence, such as prisons, fatal shooting, murder, robbery, etc. Grades 9-12
  ydestura | May 20, 2012 |
Showing 1-25 of 254 (next | show all)
"Monster" by Walter Dean Myers, was very interesting. It was an easy read because it was written in s script like fashion. The book grasps your attention in many ways. One being that the main character, Steve Harmon, is the one writing this book/movie script, and all we know is what he has to say. Two being that even at the very end it leaves the reader wondering is he guilty or not guilty? I would recommend this readers from middle school and up, it is not a hard read but the voice overs, CU's, and other movie terms might be a bit over whelming to new readers. Anyone who took the time to read this novel, would thoroughly enjoy it.
  smn153 | Feb 11, 2016 |
Before reading this book it gave me a bad feeling, I really did not want to read it but I did and it is one of the most interesting books I have ever read. The way that it is written is unique, it is not your regular book. The main character, Steven writes the trail and his time in jail like a movie. During the trail you James King the "thug" and the jury, along with prosecutors and Kings friends. The story goes on to explain if Steven is guilty or not guilty for murder. The book leaves you questioning a side, but you will have to read it to choose your side.
  cmerideth | Feb 10, 2016 |
This is definitely a quick read; it would be a great weekend novel. The author keeps the reader engaged throughout by alternating between the speaker's (Steve Harmon, the 16 year old boy on trial for being involved in a murder) diary entries and the script of a movie that he is creating based on the experiences in the courtroom. Steve's experience in the detention center are incredibly scary and a reality for many.

As far as Steve's innocence, the author really keeps us guessing. Sometimes you are sure a boy like Steve could not be an accomplice to a murder; other times, you start to question yourself. It is a constant back and forth with no clear verdict, even at the end, which may be frustrating for those who need closure. ( )
  JensenBosarge | Feb 9, 2016 |
This story was really amazing. I couldn't put the book down. It really allowed me the chance to look into the court and to form my own opinion based on if I thought Steve was guilty or not. This book really let me see him on a personal level. I also loved the way the book was written. Having the book written like a script was so much easier for me to read and I read the whole book in a couple hours. The only thing that I did not care for was the abbreviations for camera angle shots because I forgot them sometimes or would just read right over them. Overall, this story is a must read. ( )
  Jordanm4 | Feb 7, 2016 |
"The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is being beaten up and screaming for help."

This is what 16-year old Steven Harmon is thinking as he lies on the cot in his jail cell, awaiting trial for murder. He may or may not have been involved in a drugstore robbery that ended with the murder of the owner. He is terrified of being in jail and of the possibility he may have to spend the next 25 years in prison. To help himself cope, he is writing down everything in his notebook in screenplay format. The novel covers the trial and ends with the verdict.

Without spoiling the story, I can tell you that I walked away at the end not knowing for sure if Steve was guilty or not. I can say that I felt a strong connection to Steve and that I wanted him to not be guilty. I felt sorry for his innocence and for the fact that he grew up around criminals. Just being acquainted with these people put him in a bad position. The author clearly portrays the fear and anxiety that Steve is feeling. Being trapped and being out of control, relying on his attorney, the jury and the judge to decide the rest of his life... As Steve says, many times, he is not a bad person, he is not a monster.

Can I say WOW! This story drove home the point that one small event or one small error in judgment or even being in the wrong place at the wrong time or being "friends" with the wrong people can change your life forever. Reading this book could be life changing for young people.

This is my daughter's summer reading assignment. She is going into 8th grade. I really hope she gets as much out of this book as I did.
( )
  Jadedog13 | Feb 3, 2016 |
Monster is a novel written in screenplay language. Steve Harmon, a 16-year-old black boy, is accused of taking part in a crime that involved the murder of an old man. The story is mostly told in script and cinematographic language, but it also includes "journal entries" written by Steve himself. This book offers interesting insights into human nature and the environment of prison. In the end, whether he is innocent or not, Steve realizes that every person has the potential to be a monster lying inside of them--all they have to do is let it take them over. Sometimes the worst thing a good person can do is let bad things happen. ( )
  AngelClaw | Feb 3, 2016 |
The story that Walter Dean Myers tells in this novel—a young black teenager is arrested in connection with a robbery/murder in Harlem, claims his innocence, and goes on trial—is not new. The manner in which he tells it, however, is.

The narration in “Monster” takes the form of a screenplay written from the point of view of Steve Harmon, the 16-year-old on trial. Although the bulk of the story is related through un-editorialized dialogue and descriptions of camera movements (close-ups, long shots, etc.), the narration of Steve’s trial is interwoven with photos and passages from the journal Steve has been keeping during his time in prison. While the trial provides the typical suspense of courtroom drama and grapples with the question of Steve’s innocence, Steve’s journal provides the reflective soul of the story, for in his journal Steve struggles with questions of his identity and his uncertain future.

The gripping plot and Myers’ strong, clear writing endow the novel with a breakneck pace (I read the entire thing is just a few hours). “Monster” is a lightning bolt of Young Adult fiction—fast, strong, and devastating. ( )
  jimrgill | Jan 30, 2016 |
This is a very raw and real look at a minor in prison, written for the YA crowd. Written in an intriguing screenplay-manner, it is easy to read and provides a clear mental image of what the author, the young man on trial, is going through.

I liked his viewpoint of the effects of his arrest and trial on the attorney, his mother, and especially his father. It is a real look at the consequences of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I highly recommend this book. ( )
  CarmenMilligan | Jan 18, 2016 |
planned on skimwitting but ended up reading it for real because got it good! These started as 1 1/2 stars and became 3 stars. it became a mystery in a way did he or didn't he? i thought he did.
also his fear and his questioning of whether or not he was a monster really started to interest me. ( )
  kdf_333 | Jan 17, 2016 |
planned on skimwitting but ended up reading it for real because got it good! These started as 1 1/2 stars and became 3 stars. it became a mystery in a way did he or didn't he? i thought he did.
also his fear and his questioning of whether or not he was a monster really started to interest me. ( )
  kdf_333 | Jan 16, 2016 |
planned on skimwitting but ended up reading it for real because got it good! These started as 1 1/2 stars and became 3 stars. it became a mystery in a way did he or didn't he? i thought he did.
also his fear and his questioning of whether or not he was a monster really started to interest me. ( )
  kdf_333 | Jan 16, 2016 |
planned on skimwitting but ended up reading it for real because got it good! These started as 1 1/2 stars and became 3 stars. it became a mystery in a way did he or didn't he? i thought he did.
also his fear and his questioning of whether or not he was a monster really started to interest me. ( )
  kdf_333 | Jan 16, 2016 |
planned on skimwitting but ended up reading it for real because got it good! These started as 1 1/2 stars and became 3 stars. it became a mystery in a way did he or didn't he? i thought he did.
also his fear and his questioning of whether or not he was a monster really started to interest me. ( )
  kdf_333 | Jan 16, 2016 |
I enjoyed the format of this story. I appreciated the ending and the thought this story provokes. ( )
  EllsbethB | Nov 15, 2015 |
To view an annotated bibliography of this title written for EDLI200, expand the spoiler entry below:

Young Adult
Modern Realistic Fiction
Dark Realistic Fiction
Street Violence

Estimated age level of interest:
Young Adult

Estimated reading level:
Grade 5

Brief description:
Steve Harmon, a 16-year-old from New York City, imagines a screenplay of his life story as he sits in prison before and during a trial that will determine whether or not he will be convicted for his alleged involvement in a store robbery that left a man dead.

At least 2 characteristics of this genre and subgenre and how they appear in this book:
Dark realistic fiction generally touches of subjects that are considered by many to be taboo. Crimes and violence certainly fit into this category, and these are themes that are at the center of “Monster”. Although, as the reader learns, Steve did not play the role that he is accused of in the crime that he finds himself on trial for, his story illustrates the realities of life as a young, black male from a lower-income family, growing up on the inner streets of urban America. This life takes Steve across the path of many unadmirable characters and finds him bearing witness to violence and criminal behavior that many will never personally experience and would rather pretend does not exist.

Characteristics described in Chance’s text as being particularly common to the “street violence” sub-genre include “raw language, crowded cities, poverty, despair, and glimmers of hope”, all of which are present in “Monster”. The detached, unemotional way in which the murderers describe their criminal activities, the grimy depictions of the NYC projects, the seemingly futile struggle of inner city kids to overcome their circumstances, and, finally, Steve’s second chance at life upon acquittal fit nicely into this description of what one would expect to find in a work of fiction centered around street violence.

In what ways and how well does the book as a whole serve its intended audience?
My favorite takeaway lesson/message from this book is found in its examination of the difference between being “innocent” and being “not guilty”. Steve considers this heavily throughout the story, but especially at the end of his trial. He know that he is not criminally guilty, but still recognizes that this does not make him innocent. He is able to acknowledge the role that he had in everything that transpired and how his own choices brought him to be sitting in court to begin with. Too often, young people are not secure enough with themselves to admit their own role leading up to finding themselves in an undesirable situation, and thereby rob themselves of a valuable opportunity to learn a powerful lesson and grow from it. “Monster” lets them know that it is alright to admit one’s faults and that doing so is part of becoming a better person.

Awards, if any:
Michael L. Printz Award
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor Book
National Book Award Honor for Young People’s Literature
New York Times Bestseller
American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults
American Library Association Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
American Library Association Teen Best Books for Young Adults
Boston Globe/Horn Book Award Honor Book
Amazon.com Top Ten Teen Books
Book Sense 76 Pick
Booklist Editor’s Choice Selection
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books Blue Ribbon Book
Edgar Allan Poe Award Nominee
Heartland Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Finalist
Horn Book Fanfare Honor List
International Board on Books for Young People Honor List
Kentucky Bluegrass Book Award Finalist
Los Angeles Times Book Award Finalist
Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Award in High School Category Nominee
New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age
New York Times Notable Children’s Book
Ohio Buckeye Children’s Book Award Nominee
Parents’ Guide to Children’s Media Outstanding Achievement in Books Honor
Publishers Weekly 100 Best Books of the Year
Riverbank Review Children’s Book of Distinction
Texas Tayshas Reading List
Wyoming Soaring Eagle Award Nominee

Links to published, professional reviews, if any:

Editorial reviews available through…
Titlewave: http://www.titlewave.com/search?SID=850b167e010758c576cd4aaa33596706

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0064407314?ie=UTF8&isInIframe=1&n=28315...

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/monster-walter-dean-myers/1100488550?ean=9780064...

( )
  nphill85 | Oct 12, 2015 |
The screenplay written by a young man accused of felony murder while he is in prison & during the court trial for his case. His is accused of having been the scout to see if anyone was in the drug store before it was robbed. The owner of the store was killed by his own gun during the robbery. The main character claims his innocence, but as the trial goes on, we see him question and examine his own part in the alleged events. Interesting format written like a play. LOTS of good depth for discussions!
  TeachrBkMom | Aug 16, 2015 |
Unusual format: handwritten journal juxtaposed with a screenplay written by the protagonist who is a juvenile in jail. Both chronicle his court case and his feelings about it. It was okay. Warning for parents and teachers: in one moment in the beginning, the protagonist explains that he goes to bed hearing the sounds of a boy being beaten repeatedly by a 2-3 other boys and then being sexually assaulted by those boys. It's really the only time the novel crosses into "too inappropriate for my classroom" territory. There's no swearing, other sex, or graphic scenes. Meyers engages readers with simple vocabulary and syntax to convey the theme of tolerance, prejudice, and the consequences of peer pressure. A quick read, both for me and my 13-year-old. We both finished it in approximately 3 hours (separately). ( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 10, 2015 |
Steve Harmon is on trial as an accomplice to murder. Written as a movie screenplay with Steve’s journal entries scattered throughout, the story shows how one single decision can change your whole life. A case of guilty until found innocent, young adult readers will find the variety of texts formats intriguing as they realize Steve’s perception of himself is quite different from what others think of him and his situation. Through Myers deft and intriguing storytelling multiple sides of a story are presented in a thoroughly engaging manner. ( )
  MzzColby | Aug 8, 2015 |
Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. As a way to hold it together through his terrible nights in prison and the stress of the trial, he records events as part diary and as though he were writing a movie script about his life. It was an interesting structure and fits with Steve's personality, since one of his passions is to make films. But while the structure suits the character, it also created emotional distance from me, like I was looking at events through a lens instead of getting into Steve's head. The most moving moments in the novel were those written in diary format, where we were able to see more than just the surface and really get into his head. ( )
  andreablythe | May 18, 2015 |
This is a multicultural novel about a man who is wrongly put in jail and also on trial for the killing of police officer during a robbery. He writes his point of view in jail as a script like a play of what would have been acted out from his point of view. He is wrongly put in jail and ends up being released as innocent. This book goes through his trial and how he has to prove that he is innocent. He goes through a lot of pain and anxiety and he tells us his point of view in his wrongful accusation of killing a police officer. This is an example of a realistic fiction book. ( )
  sarahetuemmler | Apr 20, 2015 |
This book was about a man who was put on trial for being involved in a murder. It is written in movie script. It shares all of the recorded court proceedings. It also includes journal entries about what happened that day that the victim was murdered. Everyone just assumes that this man was involved because he is black. This makes him feel like a monster, even though he claims he didn't do anything. His attorney fights for his innocence, and in the end they win. This book was fantasy. ( )
  NatalieCJones | Apr 19, 2015 |
In this realistic fiction book, we are told the story of Steve Harmon, a boy who was on trial for felony murder. According to the police report, he had been the person to scope out if there were any police officers in the store that his "friends" wanted to stick up. This book is written like a screen play because Steve was in a film class, and it was his coping mechanism to get through the rough experience of jail, and the trial. Throughout the course of the book we are shown the fear that the boy is feeling, and how his fear is ruling what he is doing. It seems like he is guilty, and I guess that is why he is on trial. After the long and suspenseful trial, and many things leading up to that, we are told that the jury found him not guilty, and he was free to go. ( )
  BethWal94 | Apr 12, 2015 |
BBYA Top 10 2000. YALSA Outstanding Books for the College Bound. From Amazon.com: "Monster" is what the prosecutor called 16-year-old Steve Harmon for his supposed role in the fatal shooting of a convenience-store owner. To calm his nerves as he sits in the courtroom, aspiring filmmaker Steve chronicles the proceedings in movie script format. RGG: Urban. Black. Male. Compelling. Very Readable
  rgruberhighschool | Mar 28, 2015 |
This is a great and relevant read for any young adult audience. It evokes many feelings, frustrations, and questions. The style (written as a moviescript) pulls you in and helps you visualize the story and understand Steve's point of view. ( )
  EliseMT | Mar 19, 2015 |
Walter Dean Myers had such talent for bringing voices to life that have often been ignored or avoided. In _Monster_, Steve, a sixteen year old from Harlem, NY stands accused of being the look-out in a robbery. The stakes are high - a felony - because the store owner is killed in the commission of the crime. Told in a screenplay format, Steve chronicles his time in jail and the courtroom.

A very quick read, great for reluctant readers! This would be fascinating to pair with the podcast "Serial".

Michael L. Prinz Award (1st recipient)
Coretta Scott-King Illustrator Award Honor Book
National Book Award Honor for Young People's Literature
(source: http://walterdeanmyers.net/bibliography/awards) ( )
  Debra_Armbruster | Feb 15, 2015 |
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