Monday, April 16, 2012

Monster

Review from Annette Coomer:

Myers, W. D. (1999). Monster. New York: Harper Collins.

I really can't remember how I heard of this book, but I do know why it appealed to me. My husband is a youth worker in a juvenile boot camp. While this boot camp cannot have murderers, I get to hear a lot of stories from my husband about why the kids ended up at the boot camp. Some always say "I didn't do it." Others admit their guilt immediately. I immediately felt a connection with this book. When I saw this story was told through journals and a movie script, I also welcomed the change from the normal novel.

Kids really don't realize how making the wrong decision can lead to such dramatic consequences. Myers protagonist, Steve Harmon, is on trial for murder. Through Harmon's first person point of view, the reader experiences what sitting in a court room is like as well as what sitting in a cell is like. In order to pass time during the trial, Harmon decides to turn his story into a movie script. He has enjoyed making movies for a while. The journals appear when Harmon is in his cell in the prison. Through them, the reader gets a description of life behind bars. "They take away your shoelaces and your belt so you can't kill yourself no matter how bad it is. I guess making you live is part of the punishment." This passage is one I marked with our Active Reading symbols. I marked it with Wow! This really made me think. Is that why they take away so much? Then I thought about the boot camp where my husband works. They do strip the kids of pretty much everything, including their hair. They all have to get their heads burred. For a lot of them, this comes as a shock. They wear the same clothes as everyone else also. This takes away from any that belong to gangs. Everyone is on an equal field. Shoelaces and belts can also be used as weapons against others.

This book would be great for a debate among class members. Any kid who has experienced making the wrong choice or being around the wrong people can relate. Those who have been falsely accused can also relate. Myers leaves the reader with a lot of unanswered questions. There are a lot of social issues that could make for a great conversation tool: Prison system, moral decisions, peer pressure, justice system, choosing friends wisely.

Big Question: Have you ever been in the wrong place at the wrong time and was accused of doing something you didn't do? How did you feel?

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