My decision to read Monster by Walter Dean Myers was mostly driven by the intrigue of the font on the first few pages and the looming due date of a book review. This novel turned out to be so much more than “Kaushan Script” and a grade-boost as it forced me to explore the unsettling reality of the juvenile detention system.
Although fictional, the novel touches on a disturbingly real situation for many Americans and provides the reader with insight into the cyclical nature of the American judicial system and provokes empathy for the citizens caught up in it.
The novel is the captivating account of a teenage boy named Steven Harmon's frightening journey through the juvenile detention system as well as his trial. The story is presented as a screenplay and includes Steven’s journal entries and memories of life before it was thrown into the chaos of this event. Especially reading this as someone who is around the same age as Steven, Myers forces the reader to not look at Steven as some African-American boy on channel 4, but a friend, a neighbor, a family member. The strategically placed memories of his school life, his interest in film, and his love for his family add a depth to the young protagonist that make it impossible to not feel some compassion throughout the heartbreaking story, even as his innocence is constantly in question.
I recommend this book to anyone looking to better understand the realities of the justice system and the depth of the citizens who occupy it.