cover image Monster


Walter Dean Myers. Amistad Press, $16.99 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028077-2

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)