Monster, by Walter Dean Myers

MonsterAt sixteen years old, Steve Harmon is facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison. He is accused of acting as a lookout during a robbery of a drugstore. The robbery was botched, and the man behind the counter was shot and killed with his own gun. The book retells the murder trial of Steve and James King, who is accused of organizing the robbery and pulling the trigger. Steve is involved in filmmaking through his high school, and the reader sees the trial and the legal process through his filmmaker’s eyes. Not just a retelling of the trial, the novel also examines Steve’s experiences in jail and his internal reactions to both the murder and the trial.

This book’s format is noteworthy, alternating between diary entries and a screenplay of the trial both written by Steve. While the diaries are first-person and very emotional, really letting the reader inside of Steve’s head, the screenplay segments show Steve looking at his own situation from an outsider’s perspective. In those sections, it is almost like Steve is watching the proceedings of his own trial, and this gives him distance from the experience. It was a fantastically effective choice by Myers. Steve’s nuanced, detached screenplay stood in direct contrast to the bare emotion of his frantically insecure diary entries.