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I just finished reading Monster, by Walter Dean Myers, at the recommendation of a peer, and I'm glad it was recommended to me. Monster is about a 16-year-old African American boy, Steve Harmon, who is on trial for a robbery gone wrong at a convenience store in his neighborhood. Steve lives in a rough neighborhood in New York, and because of his tangental association with the people in his neighborhood who were seen committing the crime, he is accused as well. The book starts at Steve's trial and follows the proceedings all the way through to a verdict. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will say that I was on the edge of my seat reading it.
Even though the book was written in 1999, it could have easily been set in 2016. The book touches on themes of racial profiling and portrays an institutionally biased criminal justice system. As I was reading the narrative bits of the book, and listening to Steve's internal debate on whether or not he is a monster because society has deemed him so, I couldn't help but to connect it with what we've been seeing on the news lately. As the book goes on, we come to see that there is no real evidence against Steve, except that he lives in a bad neighborhood and knows some of the people who live there and who have done bad things. Therefore he is presumed guilty by association.
So if I haven't got you hooked by the plot, I'll tell you the structure of this book is really cool. It's considered multi-genre because it jumps around between Steve's diary, photo's, and a screenplay that Steve is writing of the whole thing. We find out midway through the novel that Steve is quite a talented film maker, and as a result, he decides to tell the whole story of his trial as if it is a movie. The book uses different fonts for each genre the reader sees, which adds a cool visual element as well. Another cool effect of this multi-genre approach, is that we get to see the story from a first person POV (Steve's via his diary) and a third person objective POV (via the screenplay). This contrasting POV gives the story yet another layer of interest as the reader waits to see how Steve will react to each courtroom scene.
One more bonus, it's a quick read. At just 281 pages and with large font on many of the pages, it's a good one to grab if you don't have a lot of time on your hands. However, that does not make the book any less thought-provoking. In a very short amount of space, Walter Dean Myers has provided his readers with a story that addresses real, deep issues. It's a book that will certainly leave an impact.