Summary: Sixteen year old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder. The book explores his trial as well his own personal diary of what he goes through in jail. Throughout the book, Steve struggles with proving his innocence: not only to himself, but to the jury, his attorney and his family. In the end, Steve is no longer sure of his own innocence or identity. While listening to the testimony of the other witnesses, the chance that Steve will be convicted increases. His attorney knows this and decides that the only hope for Steve to walk out of this mess is by taking the stand himself. As that day approaches, Steve struggles to understand the role he played in the crime and how he got entangled in it. He had only hoped for a chance to belong in his neighborhood.
Monster shows readers the inner workings of the justice system from the arrest to the trial and being in jail, through a sixteen year old’s perspective. Not only is this effective in instilling fear in its readers, but it shows how truly horrible being in prison is. This is shown with the opening line of the novel, “The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out ad someone is being beaten up and screaming for help” (Myers).
The novel also shows readers how one wrong choice or being friends with the wrong people can bring you down in life. Steve has only wanted to fit in and he hasn’t had it easy: his family is poor and he lives in a crime riddled neighborhood. Steve wants to be seen as tough and in control of his life like other men from his neighborhood. This leads him down a slippery slope and he becomes entangled in a murder trial. The book presents his story in the form of a diary and a screenplay. Steve struggles with his own sense of identity, which many adolescent readers will relate to.
This particular book provides the perspective of a young black man. His thoughts, feelings and life experiences provide a look inside of his life – a life that many people know nothing about. We walk in his shoes, think his thoughts, feel his pain and fear. In an age where violence and “thug life” are glorified by the entertainment industry, this book brings us into Steve’s world so that we may understand what he is going through and that he is imperfect and human, just like us. It’s an important lesson – we can’t simply dismiss that which we fear and do not understand.