Monster Book Blog by Stefunny

Book:Walter Dean Myers, Monster. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 1999

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Audience: Grades 7-12

Read Aloud: SEYMOUR

Summary: Steve Harmon, a 16 year old boy from Harlem who is passionate about the art of film making finds himself in the middle of some very serious trouble. Steve is put on trial for supposedly being connected to a crime in which a man was murdered. Steve writes in a journal he was given to write about his innermost fears while he fights to not only make it through each night in prison, but to be found not guilty.

Themes: I think one of the main themes surrounds the idea of the metaphor “monster”. It is used several times to describe how Petrocelli and even O’Brien view Steven due to his actions. The use of the metaphor monster pertains to the idea of what is right and what is wrong, which leads to what constitutes someone as being a “monster”, or someone who is so cruel that they aren’t even seen as human. As Steven contemplates in the book, he questions whether he truly did anything wrong. Is it wrong to go in a store and simply look around? Is it wrong to steal, to lie or to cheat or to murder? When it comes to what is right and wrong, there is gray area. If something is considered wrong, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was horrible enough to deserve severe punishment.

I think another theme in this book was identity, or more specifically Steven’s identity. Steven, the jury, lawyers and even his parents seems to be very unsure of who he is. The identity that he is perceived to have (to some) is just a typical black teen from the streets of Harlem who is always up to some kind of trouble, whereas others like his film teacher see a deeper side to him due to his fascination with the use of film in order to show who he is. Because of stereotypes, Steven and those around him seem to find troubles connecting his outside identity with his true inside identity. This struggle for figuring out who he really is through the process of being found guilty or not guilty for a crime brings about more identity struggles because he isn’t sure if he is guilty or not.

Connections: This book would be an excellent choice to use in the classroom. The text is written in a multigenre format which makes it a perfect book to examine how students can utilize several genres in a piece of their own work to make it more effective. It can show students that not all literature is cut and dry words on a page, but instead can become an entire creation, which may spark the students interests. This book is also a good choice for the classroom because of the themes presented in the book like race, stereotypes and the judicial system. Those types of themes can be controversial and therefore will bring a lot of discussion to the table when having students read the book.

Reactions: This was my second time reading this book, and I enjoyed it very much. I liked the format of the book because it made it an experience that was different and made you view the plot in a way that might not have been seen if it were “normal”. I think that although sometimes the language was simple, the overall themes of the book are very complex which makes it a great story to read.

Reception:

Here are some reader reactions to Monster

Posted by Melissa: (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44184.Monster)

“The book has a unique format; it is written as a movie script. This format gives the reader more blatant clues about setting, and vocal cues (such as subdued, whispering, and showing anger) than would a traditionally formatted novel. There are also variations made in typeface and font that give other cues to the reader. I’m not entirely positive this was all necessary though. The plot is incredibly intense, and a first person narration might have been just as sufficient in telling this story. However, it does offer an element of creativity to the narrator’s character that wouldn’t otherwise be obvious to the reader.

I can see that this is a very well written book, and intellectually I know it’s an important topic and a powerful story. I know that a lot of people think this is a terrific book. I just didn’t really like it. The trial, and Steve’s desire to be seen as innocent, and the permanently damage family relationship, gosh, all of that just really got to me. I’m sure that’s a sign of excellent writing…I would not hesitate to recommend it to those looking for an intense book, but for me, I’d rather read something lighter.

I think the intensity of the trial, the seriousness of the crime, and the desperation of the main character make me think this would be more suited to older readers, so I would recommend the 15-18-year-old crowd. It might be too difficult for a younger reader to cope with the pressure of the trial and the assumption of Steve’s guilt by his attorney. A younger reader might not be able to understand the long-term affects of the trial on Steve’s life either, and I feel that’s an important part of the story. ”

Another reader reaction posted by HarryPotterandWarriorsLover: (http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/monster)

“I had to read this book for school, and I have to say it was good! It’s formatted differently than most books which will appeal to non-readers. It was also a pretty easy read, but mature at the same time. The inference to sex and rape was mildly brief and if you are a young teen or older, there’s no reason you can’t handle it. Steve is a good role model, staying strong through the trial and never giving up on believing he’s not guilty. A book everyone should read!”

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4 Responses to Monster Book Blog by Stefunny

  1. mpdavenport says:

    stephanie, i thought you were gonna challenge me on this books video?

  2. Stephanie, Seymour seems to be a pretty well-behaved bird. Did you feel like Tippi Hedren at all (yes, you may need to look that up or ask Mike about it)? I’m glad you focused on the metaphor of monster in both your thematic discussion as well as your read aloud. You do a nice job of discussing all the complications Meyers addresses with the use of that metaphor.

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