Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: I would say grades 9-12.
Summary: Steve Harmon is a sixteen year old kid who is on trial for murder. According to the authorities he aided two robbers in knocking over a small store which then lead to the murder of the store clerk. Steve’s job was to case the place for them. He says he’s innocent. We are shown the court proceedings through a different kind of storytelling. Steve is writing a movie about his experience. The entire script, his experience, is the story.
Themes: One of the main themes in this story is fear. Steve isn’t some neighborhood punk who thinks he can handle anything. He knows the possible future he is facing in prison. Twenty-five years of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. It absolutely terrifies him. He does his best to keep his composure but he sheds tears and tries to block out his surroundings in his jail cell.
Another important theme is trust. Steve desperately tries to understand whether or not his lawyer actually trusts what he says and believes he is innocent. Whenever he tried to bring some part of this up, she always shifted her focus elsewhere. Then when he receives a verdict of “Not Guilty” he tries to hug her but she turns away. To me, this shows that she never actually believed him and thinks that he is actually guilty.
Connections: If you’ve ever got yourself into some trouble, I’m sure you can remember that you were terrified of what might happen to you. Whether your punishment is going to be given to you by your parents or the courts, you still knew that you were in deep and your mind is constantly playing what you’ve done over and over in your head. Steve is scared, and if you were in his position you would be too.
Reactions: I thought the book was good. The script format was really different but it offered to view the story from a different perspective which I liked. I didn’t care for O’Brien though. I thought she came of as a woman who thought she knew what she was doing but her inexperience in court was obvious. She didn’t even engage in the first couple witnesses and when she finally did she didn’t even approach.