Book: Myers, Walter Dean. Monster. New York: HarperCollins, 1999. http://www.walterdeanmyers.net/
Genre: Fantasy or Science Fiction
Audience: 9-12th grades
Read Alouds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MruBeDUXbzc
Summary: Story begins with the narrator talking about when is the best time to cry. He says nighttime is the best time because that way nobody will hear your sniffles over the sounds of people getting beaten up. We are then introduced to our narrator as Steve and find out he is on trial in a murder case at the fragile age of 16. His mother is having a tremendously hard time coping with her son being in jail and he feels bad. Throughout the book, Steve has flashbacks that give the reader little bits and pieces to know more than the jury but just enough so that we don’t know whether or not he’s innocent. He maintains his innocence all the way through to the end when we find out he was falsely accused the entire time.
Themes: Race is a recurring theme throughout this book. For instance, on page 78 Mis O’Brien makes it a point to say that half of the jurors pinned Steve as guilty the moment they laid eyes on him strictly because he was young, black, and on trial for a crime. The constant struggle between races is heavily apparent throughout the text. It is also seen at the end when Steve plays his film in his head and the scene with Miss O’Brien at the end, not hugging him, is in black and white.
Violence is another theme we see a lot of. Of course, this comes as no surprise since the entire book revolves around the murder of a store clerk names Mr. Nesbit. We also see a lot of violence while he is in jail. He got smacked in the face with a tray in the cafeteria. He describes when the best time is to cry, telling us it’s best at night because the other men can’t hear your sniffles over the sounds of someone being beaten up for being too weak.
Connections: I can’t really connect this book with another I have read because this is the first book I have read with this style of writing. I do see the struggles between race and age and how that plays out in the book. This could be helpful for students to understand race better and to become familiar with racially different authors. It is hard to see something from a different racial perspective but Myers does a very good job at forcing us to see through the eyes of Steve.
Reactions: To be honest, I did not like this book very much. The writing style Myers uses was not what I enjoy reading. It went back and forth between journal entries and character dialogue and I couldn’t keep up with the story. I’m still unsure as to why Steve was in jail and not juvenile hall. I believe it was because of the color of his skin but I am unsure. I do like the ending of the book a lot.
Good Book. Took me an hour or so to read it. This was my first time reading a Walter Meyers book. I think it is appropriate for 8th or 9h graders. It can open there eyes a little. As for the sexuality, violence and language I think it sets the tone of the book without going over board with it because lets face it teens to early adulthood say far worse. I think a lot of ppl in general have been faced with some kind of peer preasure or wanting to excepted in there life and from what i got from it that’s what this book was about. A teen growing up in Harlem who wants to be excepted by the so called “tough guys” of the neighborhood, but at the same time wants and has a bright future a head of him and from one mistake brings his hopes and dreams to a stand still of the possibilty of spending a very long time in prison. It was clear that he was guilty and pretty much just got lucky. This book shows teenagers and young adults what could happen if you get caught up in the wrong crowd and give in to peer preasure. This is a extreme case of just that but this kind of thing happens everyday, not just with ppl in Harlem but ppl from any where. I think more teens and young adults need to have there eyes opened to such things. We all know what it is like to be in similar circumstances maybe just not so severe. My thoughts are that Steve did participate in the crime. Maybe he chickened out at the last moment maybe he didn’t but he did participate and in result was involved in felony murder. King knew he would participate because he knew Steve looked up to him. Osvaldo participated because he wanted to make a name for himself. King Participated because he looked up to Bobo. Bobo did it, well because he wasn’t right in the head. King might have not shot the clerk but this is what happens when you hangout with ppl like them and think they are loyal because 99% of the time they’re not and will tell lies on you/ rat you out to save there on behinds. That is pretty much what they all did. Bobo, Osvaldo and King all did that to get lighter sentences. Steve just lied and said he was no where around these guys and barley knew them when it was aparant he did and hung out with them. He got lucky. Do I think he should have got 25 to life? No, but I do think he should have been punished. Robbery is a serious thing. I know none of them expected it to go down like that but that is the risk you take when you do something of this nature. What I hope young readers get out of this book is this, all these kids were bad. There was no hero of this story. These kids commited a horrible crime, lied, cheated in anyway not to go down for it. Those so called “Tough guys” that you might idolize, hangout with or want to be like might not be so tough when the heat is on and authorties of any stature start asking them questions and acussing/ bust them. Names will start spewing from there mouth and they won’t have an ounce of regret. So stay clear from stuff like this. Check your priorities and take a look in the mirror. It just shows how quick incidents take to spiral out of control and you’re on the other end fighting for your life.
What other families should know
a book with advice
It’s a very good book with strong messages. If you keep getting into trouble, it becomes a habit. And your actions become worse as well as the consequences that follow. Just follow the rules and don’t lie.