Monster is an novel written in the form of a film script by its main character, Steve Harmon. Parts of the novel also take the form of a diary kept by Steve. Steve is on trial for participating in a robbery and murder. "Monster" is what the prosecutor called 16 year old Steve Harmon for his supposed role in the fatal shooting of a convenience store owner. But was Steve really the lookout who gave the "all clear" to the murderer, or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? The reader becomes both juror and witness during the trial of Steve's life. To calm his nerves as he sits in the courtroom, aspiring filmmaker Steve chronicles the proceedings in movie script format. Interspersed throughout his screenplay are journal writings that provide insight into Steve's life before the murder and his feelings about being held in prison during the trial.
Walter Dean Myers was born on August 12, 1937 in Martinsburg, West Virginia. When he was a baby, his mother died and his father, who was extremely poor, felt it was best to give him to a foster family (The Deans) in New York (Harlem) that could care for him. As a child, Walter developed a great love for literature and poetry. He found reading books to be a way to escape to foreign lands and adventures outside of his own life. He loved the public library and spend much of his time there.
Introspection- This theme of the book is about Steve giving himself a self-analysis. "It was me who lay on the cot wondering if I was fooling myself." Steve must come to terms with who he really is and so his screenplay and his journal entries are a way to try to make sense of what he has done or hasn’t done in his life, and what has brought him to the point of prison. By the end of the story, his doubts and his fears about who he really is have not yet been completely resolved.
Peer Pressure- Another theme of the book is peer pressure. This is especially seen in how Steve associates with young men he’s aware are less than acceptable individuals, and yet whom he is willing to be around. There is a sense that he needs to prove his manhood in some way by being with this “tough guys” in spite of the fact that they can bring disaster down upon him.
Race and the Justice System- The last theme in the book is that of race and the justice system. "What are we playing with this guy for? We don't need him. We got the case locked." There is a sense that because Steve is young and black, he is “more likely” to have committed the crime in the eyes of the jurors. There is also the sense that if he has been arrested, he must have done it, because the police and the prosecution witnesses wouldn’t lie.
Race and the Justice System
Awards- Monster was nominated for the 1999 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, won the Michael L. Printz Award in 2000, and was named a Coretta Scott King Award Honor the same year. Monster was the first novel to win the Printz Award.