This book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.
Never in my life have I experienced what it is like in prison and in a court session. Walter Dean Myers made me feel like I saw everything that happened from spending nights in a prison cell to being accused of murder. The story takes place in a courtroom in the city of Harlem, New York, when Steve Harmon has been accused of murdering 55-year-old Alguinaldo Nesbitt and robbing his drug store. This book was written in the form of a film script along with some parts written as a journal entry of Steve’s life in prison.
Steve and his journal entrees are the main reason why I really enjoyed this book. These entrees take you inside the prison cells and show you what’s really behind those iron doors. “Two guys said they did [share a moment of prayer], and I was just about ready to say I would when Lynch, a guy who is going on trial for killing his wife, started cursing at the preacher and saying that everybody wanted to talk to him and act like they were good when they were all just criminals” (61). It’s moments like these are what made me want to continue reading this book.
James King is another character that you will come across in this book. King is the typical gang member who, in this book, planned the robbery and murdered the drug store clerk, Mr. Nesbitt. King is the one who encourages Steve that he should join in on this stick up which points out on of the major themes in this book, peer pressure.
Peer pressure is one of the three major themes of this book. Osvaldo Cruz, a young 14-year-old gang member of the Diablos, joins in on this felony all because of Richard “Bobo” Evans, the character who planned this robbery, who threatened and encouraged Osvaldo to tag along. Osvaldo then says that he only joined because he was scared of Bobo, but that did nothing.
Another theme in this book is the idea of what young black men in Harlem, New York are like. In the book it shows that Steve has these flashbacks that wanted to put in his movie, after all it is written in a film script format. In the many flash backs it shows what Steve has grown up with, from gang threats to experiences of what a ghetto town is like filled with poverty, fights and much more.
Introspection is the next theme. Throughout Steve’s journal entrees he really thinks about who he is at the moment, who he has become and who he truly is as well as what has and hasn’t done. “That is why I take the films of myself. I want to know who I am. I want to know the road to panic that I took. I want to look at myself a thousand times to look for one true image” (281). At the end of the book Steve’s question still hasn’t been answered.
The thing about this trial is that Steve knows that he isn’t guilty yet everyone thinks he is guilty. It seems as if the jury only thought he was guilty in a racist way; because of his skin color. The jury thinks that just because he is a young African-American boy he is more likely to have been apart of the crime. They say that everyone is innocent until proven guilty but in the eyes of the jury, it seems as if Steve is guilt until proven innocent.
The setting of the book is in the state of New York and the country of the United States where everyone is treated with equal rights. In a country like this, Steve should definitely be innocent until proven guilty. If you want to know what the jury has decided and what happens to Steve and King in Monster, you’re going to have to read the book for yourself.
-Justin M., 7th grade