Told in screenplay format, Myers depicts the trial of Steve Harmon, a sixteen-year-old accused of second-degree murder. According to prosecutors, Steve acted as lookout during a drug store hold-up, during which the owner of the drugstore was killed. With the help of his defense attorney, Steve must separate himself from the other accused participants in the crime or face a possible death sentence.
So, this book is a little older (published 1999), but it’s still great. Its screenplay format is extremely interesting and provides excellent opportunities for read-alouds and even reader’s theater (the format also makes for a great quick read if that’s what you’re looking for). Though published 15 years ago, Steve’s story is extremely relevant. I would recommend pairing this book with some research about what happened to Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station, and also the recent case of the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Myers’ work is all about racial stereotypes, so it would be interesting to see how much has (or hasn’t) changed in the past decade (and a half).
Aside from the social commentary, Monster is an all-around entertaining read. Steve Harmon is arguably an unreliable narrator, and he keeps you guessing throughout the whole book. The screenplay is paired with entries from Steve’s diary, which adds a powerful touch to the court proceedings. In all, this is a great book if you’re at all interesting in the justice system, or if you like criminal dramas. Give it a read!
*Printz Award Winner, 2000
*National Book Award Nominee, 1999