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Monster
Book
1999
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Reviews

Booklist Reviews

Gr. 9^-12. Myers combines an innovative format, complex moral issues, and an intriguingly sympathetic but flawed protagonist in this cautionary tale of a 16-year-old on trial for felony murder. 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. The "handwritten" font of the journal entries effectively uses boldface and different sizes of type to emphasize particular passages. The film script contains minimal jargon, explaining camera angles (CU, POV, etc.) when each term first appears. Myers' son Christopher provides the black-and-white photos, often cropped and digitally altered, that complement the text. Script and journal together create a fascinating portrait of a terrified young man wrestling with his conscience. The tense drama of the courtroom scenes will enthrall readers, but it is the thorny moral questions raised in Steve's journal that will endure in readers' memories. Although descriptions of the robbery and prison life are realistic and not overly graphic, the subject matter is more appropriate for high-school-age than younger readers. ((Reviewed May 1, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this riveting courtroom drama, Steve Harmon, a Harlem teenager involved in a murder, recounts his trial in the form of a movie script. The objectivity with which he records testimony and flashbacks of events leading up to the crime ("Steve is sitting on a bench, and James King sits with him. King is bleary-eyed and smokes a joint as he talks") belies the deep emotions Steve expresses in his prison journal: "I go to bed every night terrified out of my mind. I have nightmares whenever I close my eyes." Readers will not question the 16-year-old's relationship to the crime; that is established early in the novel. However, opinions will vary as to whether Steve deserves sympathy or rebuke. Myers (Scorpions; Somewhere in the Darkness) masterfully conveys the complexity of Steve's character by presenting numerous angles of his personality. From the prosecuting attorney's point of view, he is a "monster." According to a character witness, Steve's high-school film teacher, Steve is "an outstanding young man... talented, bright, and compassionate." The only person who does not offer a clear, pat appraisal of Steve is Steve himself. Even after the verdict is delivered he is not able to make sense of who he is: the final image of him filming himself as he gazes into a mirror, searching for his identity ("I want to look at myself a thousand times to look for one true image") will leave a powerful, haunting impression on young minds. This would make an ideal companion to Virginia Walter's Making Up Megaboy for an insightful look at a teenage suspect's lost innocence. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 1999 Publishers Weekly Reviews

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 7 Up-Steve Harmon, 16, is accused of serving as a lookout for a robbery of a Harlem drugstore. The owner was shot and killed, and now Steve is in prison awaiting trial for murder. From there, he tells about his case and his incarceration. Many elements of this story are familiar, but Myers keeps it fresh and alive by telling it from an unusual perspective. Steve, an amateur filmmaker, recounts his experiences in the form of a movie screenplay. His striking scene-by-scene narrative of how his life has dramatically changed is riveting. Interspersed within the script are diary entries in which the teen vividly describes the nightmarish conditions of his confinement. Myers expertly presents the many facets of his protagonist's character and readers will find themselves feeling both sympathy and repugnance for him. Steve searches deep within his soul to prove to himself that he is not the "monster" the prosecutor presented him as to the jury. Ultimately, he reconnects with his humanity and regains a moral awareness that he had lost. Christopher Myers's superfluous black-and-white drawings are less successful. Their grainy, unfocused look complements the cinematic quality of the text, but they do little to enhance the story. Monster will challenge readers with difficult questions, to which there are no definitive answers. In some respects, the novel is reminiscent of Virginia Walter's Making Up Megaboy (DK Ink, 1998), another book enriched by its ambiguity. Like it, Monster lends itself well to classroom or group discussion. It's an emotionally charged story that readers will find compelling and disturbing.-Edward Sullivan, New York Public Library Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Flap Cover Text

Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. Maybe I can make my own movie. The film will be the story of my life. No, not my life, but of this experience. I'll call it what the lady who is the prosecutor called me. MONSTER.

FADE IN: INTERIOR COURT. A guard sits at a desk behind Steve. Kathy O'Brien, Steve's lawyer, is all business as she talks to Steve.

O'BRIEN
Let me make sure you understand what's going on. Both you and this king character are on trial for felony murder. Felony Murder is as serious as it gets. . . . When you're in court, you sit there and pay attetion. You let the jury know that you think the case is a serious as they do. . . .

STEVE
You think we're going to win ?

O'BRIEN (seriously)
It probably depends on what you mean by "win."

Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. A Harlem drugstore owner was shot and killed in his store, and the word is that Steve served as the lookout.

Guilty or innocent, Steve becomes a pawn in the hands of "the system," cluttered with cynical authority figures and unscrupulous inmates, who will turn in anyone to shorten their own sentences. For the first time, Steve is forced to think about who he is as he faces prison, where he may spend all the tomorrows of his life.

As a way of coping with the horrific events that entangle him, Steve, an amateur filmmaker, decides to transcribe his trial into a script, just like in the movies. He writes it all down, scene by scene, the story of how his whole life was turned around in an instant. But despite his efforts, reality is blurred and his vision obscured until he can no longer tell who he is or what is the truth. This compelling novel is Walter Dean Myers's writing at its best.

2000 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, 2000 Michael L. Printz Award, 1999 National Book Award Finalist, 01 Heartland Award for Excellence in YA Lit Finalist, 00-01 Tayshas High School Reading List, and 00-01 Black-Eyed Susan Award Masterlist

2000 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA), Hornbook Fanfare 2000, Michael L. Printz Award 2000, 2000 Coretta Scott King Award Author Honor Book, 2000 Quick Picks for Young Adults (Recomm. Books for Reluctant Young Readers), and 2000 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA)

- (HARPERCOLL)

Annotations

While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon records his experiences in prison and in the courtroom in the form of a film script as he tries to come to terms with the course his life has taken - (Baker & Taylor)

While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon records--as a film script--his experiences in prison and in the courtroom as he tries to come to terms with the course of his life. - (Baker & Taylor)

This New York Times bestselling novel from acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers tells the story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial.

Presented as a screenplay of Steve's own imagination, and peppered with journal entries, the book shows how one single decision can change our whole lives.

Monster is a multi-award-winning, provocative coming-of-age story that was the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award recipient, an ALA Best Book, a Coretta Scott King Honor selection, and a National Book Award finalist.

Monster is now a major motion picture called All Rise and starring Jennifer Hudson, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Nas, and A$AP Rocky.

The late Walter Dean Myers was a National Ambassador for Young People&;s Literature, who was known for his commitment to realistically depicting kids from his hometown of Harlem.

- (HARPERCOLL)

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