I stumbled into my favorite young adult book so far this semester with “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers. The technique of story is so unique in this book it is impossible to dislike. Just reading this book suggests the many ways authors can play around with story, and is entertaining on that level alone. Within his creative technique, which I will explain in brief later, Myers presents a somber commentary on the justice system which at times can fail for many reasons.
In “Monster” Steve Harmon is sixteen and on trial for murder. The boy can’t cope with the situation he is in; primal fear of prison is abundant. So, in order for Steve to make sense of the situation he finds himself in he creates a movie. Steve is very good at this, and before the trial he was working on a film for school. During Steve’s trial he begins the entire script. This book is written like a play, but includes terms of film such as CU (close up), MS (middle shot), LS (long shot), etc. These film terms help out immensely with capturing imagery and emotion of scene. Steve will use these techniques of film script to portray the action taking place inside the courtroom, the prison, and personal flashbacks At the end of every scene, Steve includes his own inner thoughts on the days proceedings. It’s just fantastic technique. It would be a great way of teaching students to write more creatively about scene. Myers moves the camera in this work, literally, by telling you he is doing it. While this would get old after awhile because it is too blatant, it works like magic in this book.
The plot of the story is pretty touching. If you are a person to like any writing or movies that deal with prisoner exoneration, and court room trials, then this is the young adult book for you. Steve is standing trial for something he didn’t do; only the circumstances of his day-to-day life have landed him here. But he is here, and he has to fight the image of who the prosecution and jury thinks he is, a criminal. This book includes heavy commentary on the reasoning process existing in a courtroom and how the principles of law might not have the heart of a sixteen year old boy in the subtext. Well, Myers knows this too, and he pins the desires of a young boy to be free against an ardent prosecution calling for “justice.” This book includes unreliable criminal testimonials in abundance, touching family visits to the prison, and prejudicial thoughts and processes that exist in community and in the courtroom. The title “Monster” deals with labels, and how Steve may never escape his even if he is proven innocent.