Monster by Walter Dean Myers


23 Comments on “Monster by Walter Dean Myers”

  1. Yuliana Baez says:

    I may sound like the biggest LOSER right now but I absolutely loved loved loved this book! If anyone knows me they know that I love Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Reading this book I felt as though I was watching the show. I know that I have read this book back in middle school and it was okay to me. Now that I am older and have more of an understanding of the legal system I was really able to get into the book.

    The way Meyers wrote this book was brilliant to me. It was broken down into a journal and screen play. Having the journal section was very powerful because it conveys the emotion that Steve felt while he was in the trial process. The places where Meyer’s decided to put the pictures were important to me as a reader. For example, the transition from page 55 to 56 gave me chills. That was also the first encounter where we see an image. Although now a days we don’t read books with pictures I believe they are very important because they give us the emotions and message the text is trying to convey we wouldn’t have otherwise imagined because we haven’t been through that situation.

    I knew going into the text that there was going to be a race factor. It affected every aspect of the book. The way we portrayed Steve, the way we read the book, every within the characters and their interactions. The lawyers were horrible in my opinion but besides that they did not even believe in their clients. One of the major factors that I believe contributed to this was the fact that they were African Americans from Harlem. It is a big stereotype that they are “thugs” with no future. I myself had strong connection to the characters because I am from New York City. I live in a neighborhood right next to Harlem. Many people didn’t have hopes of making it through college without messing up.

    There is so much more I want to say but I will leave this for class. ..

  2. Hannah Sorgi says:

    Hannah Sorgi

    I just finished Monster, and I did not like it at all. I could not get into the book because of how the novel was set up. Maybe if I had listened to it via audiobook is would be been easier but the script set up of the novel was distracting. A major rhetorical part of this novel is the font choices and changes. I understand that because it is written as a play that different fonts might be necessary, but I found it confusing. I appreciated the attempt on using “handwriting” for when Steve was talking about himself personally but for me it failed as a good addition to the novel. I have read plays before, such as Shakespeare and such, but I found the stage directions placed in such script as this to just be a distraction. I would try to involve my mind in the story and then a stage direction would cut in and ruin the moment in my mind.

    Honestly, I do not have much to say about this novel because I didn’t like it. Maybe it is because I am a girl, and this is a very boy driven novel, but I really think it is just because the novel was set up as a script. The plot ideas are good, the stage directions are unnecessary interruptions in my mind.

  3. Shane Samuel says:

    I read moster when I was in 7th grade and although I understood the situation, it was a bit of challenge to me because of the way Myers wrote the story (the screenplay format not to mention the sudden transitions back and forth). However, reading it again was much easier I think it can be attributed to the way Crank was written so,it prepared me for Monster. Myers did a great job at letting the reader get into Steve’s head, which is important because it allows the reader to get to know who Steve is, making a connection between the reader and protagonist. Furthermore, since I was not given a clear answer as to whether or not steve did it, I was given the chance to analyze and debate his guilt using the bits of informatiom that was given. This novel was also great as presenting the reader with insight race. I found it interesting how the police did not really have any evidence yet they trialed him on suspicion that he did it. Although this is a fictional story, situations such as this happen all the time especially to young African American males.

  4. Evan Phail says:

    The point of a screenplay is to be seen, not read. Because of this, reading Monster brings new challenges to understanding the narrative. There are a lot of interruptions that may not make sense on print but on screen would. One of the first things I thought about reading Monster is that there is a lot of gutter space. Like in graphic novels, the gutter space in this screenplay leaves a lot of action outside what the audience is supposed to see. A lot of cuts between scenes, as well as between time frames, leaves a lot of gutter space which is full of important action that Walter Dean Myers omits. This is especially pertinent to the end of the novel because we have to make our own assumptions of Steve’s innocence or guilt beyond the court’s decision.
    I thought it was a great choice on p 24 to have the word “Monster” in the background crossed out. As we read, we learn that Steve is writing this and his lawyer is crossing it out. When I look at this page “Monster” stands out all over it and it is very effective.
    Also in the beginning, the book jumps right into the narrative, then has opening credits and then introduces the title Monster. I thought this was very clever to have the opening very much like the movie it is supposed to be.
    I wasn’t so hot on the photographs used throughout the book. I really question what their purpose is in the story. The only one I can think is to give us a picture of the scene, but isn’t that what the screen directions tell us? And there are some photographs that I couldn’t even relate to the dialogue that was next to it.
    Lastly, I liked the way race weaved into the story, on two occasions. One where Steve’s mother questions if she should have hired a black lawyer (p146) and also where there is a news report that blatantly exaggerates the crime that was committed (p120). In the newscasters statement, it is said that “two armed masked bandits rushed into the drugstore.” I found this very accurate in the exaggeration of a crime story.
    Altogether, I wasn’t a great fan of reading Monster because it wasn’t much different than any other Law&Order episode I could watch. However I am very much interested in what others thought of the book and whether they think Steve Harmon should be guilty or innocent.

  5. sbuckleit says:

    The structure of this book is rhetorically brilliant; because it uses the court proceedings to tell the story, it isn’t until the end that we know whether or not Steve will end up in jail for the rest of his life and the reader is sucked into the story line very quickly. This method is effective for younger audiences who may not have the attention span for less catchy novels.
    In fact, the entire book is geared toward young male readers. The cover has a mug shot on it, and the font of the title is blocky and tough looking. Even the title itself, “Monster” sounds like something out of a horror film. And Walter Dean Myers is proudly displayed above the title, his name clearly male. A boy is ten times more likely to pick up this book than Wintergirls, with its swirly powder-puff blue cover.
    I’m not sure whether showing the court proceedings in the form of a screen play was the best decision rhetorically for Myers; it makes his novel more complicated than it needs to be, especially because there are also segments of journal. Because he’s covering a court case inside of a screenplay inside of a book, the pieces don’t snap together well. Instead of having form fit content (such as in Crank) we get a puzzle with warped pieces.
    I think it’s important that he had Steven’s love of film save him from jail in some ways (both in his alibi and his film teacher’s testimony about him), otherwise there would have been absolutely no basis for making the book a screenplay. Despite my misgivings about the format, with the audience in mind it does make sense. Boys may be more likely to pick up a book that seems to them more like it’s really a movie.
    I think that the most brilliant thing about this book is the fact that even after the story has ended, we’re still left wondering whether or not Steve is a monster. We know that the jury decided he wasn’t guilty, but some of the flashbacks he chooses to show us indicate that Steve lied on the stand. Is he a monster? Would he be a monster even if he did act as lookout? These are the questions that Myers leaves his young readers with at the last page, and hopefully they address issues that the target audience faces in real life.

    Sarah Buckleitner

  6. Meghan Warager says:

    Meghan Warager
    Reflection MONSTER

    My first reaction to the book Monster was the format of the book was difficult to follow. I had an easier time I think with the free verse of Crank than I did with the movie script format that Monster was written in. I found myself skimming any parts that were not in dialect format, probably because I was just so interested in what people were saying and not so interested in the author setting up the scene, and it had me missing important parts of the book. I also found myself having difficult remembering the characters by their last names, and their nick names. It took more work than most of the other books to read which was a turn off for me. However, with that said, I can see the rhetorical meaning behind writing the book in this format. The purpose of the book was for Steve Harmon to find out who he is/what is his character. So he turned the search for it through this trial by writing a screen play. It made the story a little lighter which was smart with such a deep issue such as a murder trial.
    I also could connect with the book in the search for finding out how people see me/finding out who I really am. Steve Harmon continued to tie back to the idea of others seeing himself as a Monster, and trying to understand if it was possible for him to be a Monster. I think when we are younger we believe certain situations would never happen to us, we could never be “a monster.” Although he is found innocent, it still forces Steve to question his character, who is associates himself with, and how he should act and behave. There were many times in high school I thought I was innocent for being at a party if I wasn’t drinking, or associating with certain people, and couldn’t imagine the possibility of others negatively classifying me. I also found it interesting that I was able to find a connection to the story, despite the many differences in identity I have with the main character.

  7. carlagaynor2 says:

    I have to agree with Hannah. I didn’t like this book either, because of the way it was set up. Hannah brings up an interesting point about the audio book. I can’t imagine how that would work, having a play read to you like that. It might have helped me get into the book more though.

    On another note, I felt that this book was set up great rhetorically. Because it is written in play form, it is the first book we have looked at that is not directly in first person. True, we do see things through the eyes of Steve, but the court case itself is word for word, and it is not biased from one narrator’s perspective. The case is laid out as it actually happened. However, we do get the first person in between scenes in the script. This plays an important role because here, we find out that Steve is truly innocent. He was not directly involved in the murder of Mr. Nesbitt.

    I found that the “Archie” character in the book was Kathy O’Brien, Steve’s lawyer. Though she was not all that sure they would win the case, she was the only one who had extensive conversations with Steve throughout the book. His parents and brother are present, but they, especially the brother, seem more flat than round.

    I think that I may not have connected with this book also because I can’t really imagine that setting. I am not too far away from Harlem (about 2 hours outside Manhattan, on the east end of Long Island), yet I still had trouble really getting a sense of the setting. Without this many of the scenes outside the courtroom seemed distant to me, and the screenplay really did not leave all that much room for description outside the set descriptions.

  8. Katie McLean says:

    I was so disoriented at first with the text. I could not program myself to look at the name of who was speaking and the camera directions. Buuuuut, after awhile when I got used to it, I actually really liked it.

    I was expecting to not enjoy the book, and I did struggle with it, but my favorite aspect was the juxtaposition between Steven’s writing and the screen play. He was writing from such a deeply sad, confused, scared place. The interplay in the book between these two perspectives: the court room conversations and Steven’s writing gives an incredibly collective view of emotion and reality. It let us into his heart; we no longer just viewed him as a convict.

    The way his diary, specifically, was written was also essential to the storytelling method. I actually could not grasp if he was guilty or not– I mean my initial reaction was that he was not, a good book makes you want to feel sympathy for the main character… And, even though he said over and over again that he was not guilty, I was unclear what his position in all of it was. Yet actually that didn’t seem like the point completely. I’m still trying to figure out the argument the book was trying to make. Was it trying to represent a larger problem and idea? Racial profiling, gangs, living life in this way?

    The ending touched me and actually was the reason I ended up liking the book. I was not in love with the text, but I liked it enough. It read so so fast, the idea didn’t seem complex enough. I like stories that lead you up until the end and are at the edge of the seat, but I think Myers chose to make this more of an emotional story of a sixteen year old facing jail. Which I guess could only be very emotional. A perspective I’m not sure how to relate to… Once again, imagine this told in the eyes of Bobo- I don’t think he’d be crying to his journal!

  9. Evan Phail says:

    Good call, I totally forgot Steve even had a brother, nor can I even guess what his name is. What is his family’s role in the book? I don’t see much of a role.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Shanita McLeod

    Monster Response

    First and Foremost, I loved how the book flowed as a film. It gave me so much suspense especially at the end. This is my second time reading this book and it’s almost as if I never read it. Steve is a great narrator because he allows for you to connect emotionally with the other characters. I also love Myers’s diction because there is a mix between slang and proper English. Most of the book is written in dialogue and allows us to see what is going through Steve’s head and how that affects how he thinks about life outside of his cell. Unlike majority of the books we read, this book is split between first person, but we also are exposed to what the others characters are saying verbatim. Myers’s way of connecting the character to the outside was very clever because he allowed us to see how Petrocelli wanted the jury to see Steve as a Monster, how Steve tried to see himself, what he wanted people to think of him and assimilating to the mentality of the other inmates. Each court proceeding is like a film take, the only difference is that there is no doing the scene over, you have one try to win the crowd over. I thought that in this book the “Archie” was O’Brien because she gave Steve advice and assisted him in making decisions, and she tried to give him some space to figure certain things out for himself.
    I loved the idea that Steve’s film club adviser’s testimony helped because unlike many adolescents in Steve’s neighborhood, he actually was doing something positive with himself. Additionally, I think unlike the other books this book touched on poverty, high crime and how many youth live their life. If this book did not have the ending verdict that it did, I probably would have hated Myers because Steve had aspirations. Overall, this was one of my favorite books because it had visuals, it is written as a screen play, and the descriptions were very vivid.

  11. Caley says:

    Caley Goldblatt
    I found that describing the different shots in the middle of the story extremely distracting. I am in a class called “art of the screenplay” where all we do is read screenplay and they are formatted in a much clearer way than this book. I actually do enjoy reading screenplays because the characters are so well defined they it is usually like a movie playing in your head as you are reading. However in this book, it is so choppy that I feel like I didn’t have the opportunity to tune into the characters and just watch this story unfolding. It also didn’t help that the character names all seemed to blend together. It is always a bad sign that after you have finished a book you have a hard time remembering the names of those in it. Also the past screenplays I have read do not have the specific shots (CU, MS, LS) in the text but they do have the setting descriptions in the same way (exterior, interior etc.)
    I found the format of the story extremely distracting and I think it dramatically interfered with me connecting with the characters. Also I feel like we were “told” about the characters, not shown them through their actions, word choice, and the narration. I feel like every character in this story was flat and generic. While I can appreciate Steve’s love for film and I see what the author was trying to do by giving him a passion, I really just don’t buy it. Also why is this kid not in a prison for teens and why is he being tried as an adult? There are a lot of legal technicalities that made me question the legitimacy to this story actually occurring.

  12. Luke Lyons says:

    Luke Lyons

    This book is a perfect example of prime rhetorical devices. The juxtaposition of screenplay writing and journal entry writing is a brilliant choice by Myers. And because both of these writings are from Steve’s perspective, it’s fascinating to see what he saves for the screenplay sections versus what he saves for his own personal entries. The font and style of the screenplay sections aren’t anything special but the way the journal entries are written makes the book much more immersive. Even hundreds of thousands of these books were published and they all look the same, I caught myself sympathizing with Steve not only because he might have been innocent, but also because I really felt like I was reading something that he wrote. It didn’t seem like something that Myers typed of.

    The few pictures scattered throughout the book are extremely helpful to the overall feel of the book. The pictures come and go and thankfully, do not overstay their welcome. The first image of Steve in his cell really puts things in perspective. Reading about a 16 year old on trial and in prison is completely different than getting a quick glimpse of him sitting in his abysmal prison cell. The image of his mother holding a picture of him “as if he were dead” is very moving. And the female in the picture doesn’t look fake either. It’s not as if a female was drawn which things all that more real. The last couple of pictures that depict Steve in the store with journal written notes on the side reading “What was I doing” is the epitome of regret in this book. That was one of the first and only time Steve interrupts he’s screenplay driven narrative with his personal journal style writing.

  13. Daphney Etienne

    I love coming of age stories, and this is exactly what Monster is. And my favorite part about it is that the coming of age story didn’t happen at the lake house one summer or over a heart break. Every body grows up, (I think) and he had The coming of age story happened while he was on trial for murder.

    However, I didn’t like the structure of the novel. I’m from Brooklyn, and I’ve hung out in Harlem a lot, but I couldn’t connect. It’s weird because I read novels and ALWAYS read as if I am reading a screen play, and I imagine the setting, character, and how they should say what they said. When it’s an actual screen play, I just couldn’t get into it.

    It’s still rhetorically a good book. I like the fact that Myers played around with the font. If his journals were the same font as the conversations, the whole novel would have been ruined.

    It makes me question if it’s because the Steve is male. I can watch a movie with a group of males (School Ties is one of my favorite movies) but I have a hard time picking up a novel where a female is not the main character.

    In class, I talked about how I could relate to the Judy Blume and others like it when I was younger, even though the girl were White, but I’m realizing that it’s not so much relating to it as it is being curious about their world. I wanted to see what American girls were like (I didn’t move to the states until I was 8), I wanted to see what their schools and neighborhoods were like because I grew up in a Brooklyn, and went to over crowded schools all my life…

  14. Stephanie Haddad says:

    I had a very difficult time getting into Monster. I battled reading through the alternating screenplay and journal writing. The format was more confusing than intriguing to me—I found the “CUT TO” sections of the screenplay to be completely distracting and unnecessary. I found myself wanting to skip through these sections because they completely inhibited my train of thought while I was trying to understand all of the elements of Steve’s trial and the committed crime.

    The rhetorical choice of Myers to use the different fonts in the journal versus the screenplay made transitioning from one to the other much easier. I enjoyed the journal writing more than the screenplay because I was able to better understand Steve’s emotions and panic as a result of his arrest. The pictures on the other hand did nothing to intensify the suspense or emotion in the story; I found them somewhat random and pointless. I understand their use towards some level of creativity, but these selected images simply did nothing to maximize my reading experience.

    Before I completely dismiss the story, I still think the plot was realistic and it conveyed a story that truly explores racial differences. I also noticed Steve saying he’s not a “bad person” a lot of the time in the story and how he starts to wonder if he might be “lying to himself.” It makes the reader really analyze the situation rather than get a straightforward answer of whether he’s innocent or guilty. At the end of the story, I almost wasn’t sure if I was happy or not that he was found innocent. Steve’s lawyer’s (Miss Obrien’s) reaction at the end of the trial really threw me off. I’m still a bit confused as to why she reacted the way she did, and it makes me kind of uneasy about the whole trial. Another part that I found very important was the day the junior high school class visited the trial— At times I would forget how young Steve really is, but these bits of reminders make the story so much better because a 16 year old on trial for murder makes this story so much more powerful. I mean really… a 16 year old locked up—like Steve says on page 156 in reference to his little brother, “they didn’t allow kids in the visiting area, which was funny. It was funny because if I wasn’t locked up, I wouldn’t be allowed to come into the visiting area.” I found this pretty ridiculous…

  15. Lindsay Webster says:

    Oh gosh, I just feel like such a Negative Nancy…. I love to read!! I think I’m going through a midlife crisis– I’ve disliked the past 3ish books, and now I’m adding MONSTER to that quickly growing list.

    Hrm… Hated it.
    I’ve never read anything by Walter Dean Myers before, I’m a total virgin to his writing, but I’ve seen and heard a lot of feedback on some of his other works (especially GAME/FALLEN ANGELS/SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH). I loved what Yuliana said about L&O: SVU, because yo, I’m obsessed with that show, so I liked the book because I could indulge in courtroom drama without my face being glued to a screen. I also liked how speedily I could read the book. 2hrs, tops. I just thoroughly didn’t enjoy it. I’m a bad, bad person. I DID rejoice, however, when Steve was found not guilty (yayyyy!).

    Couple notes:

    Right off the bat- I put a big star in the margins next to Steve’s “opening credits”- the whole Star Wars theme- I thought that was an interesting way for WDM to attest to the age of the character. Smart.

    I loved all the flashbacks in the book- the cut to the film class, or Steve sitting with his brother, or getting arrested etc. By writing the book in this format, WDM was taking a serious risk. So the flashbacks are examples of him truly taking it all the way- the helped the book READ as an actual VISUAL story.

    On page 140, Steve addresses what I think to be one of the major points in the book: What does being guilty really mean? To you, the reader, is Steve guilty? One of the hardest problems I had with the story was (wooah CRANK flashback) I feel like I didn’t really know Steve. Gosh, that’s an awful thing to say… cause I kind of think that I do know him? I can’t tell, something is missing… when Steve got up to testify, and we finally hear his side of the story, I honestly found myself wondering if he was telling the truth… I… just…. dont…. know….

    plus, WHO THE HECK WAS THE ARCHIEEEEEEE???????? sjfljajl knowing how our class likes to think, perhaps the JAIL was the archie!! (haha oh god, i’m never going to leave CRANK behind….)

    ok. love you all ❤

  16. kbronner says:

    Kristyna Bronner

    I read this book originally when I was a freshman in high school. I saw it in the library and was drawn by the cover. At the time, the orange and black caught my attention and once I pulled the book from the shelf I was able to see the multiple awards on the cover. What drew me to read it though, was the back cover of the book, written in all caps it says: “Steve Harmon’s black. He’s in jail, maybe forever. He’s on trial for murder. And he’s sixteen years old.” My adolescent self couldn’t resist.

    This time around, it was extremely hard for me to get into reading the book. I’m not sure what changed for me other than the fact that I grew up. Although I did read a lot of middle class white girl oriented books, I was such a big reader as a kid that I was drawn to multicultural books as well. Maybe this just isn’t the kind of book that I’d be interested in reading more than once–admittedly I read the Diary of Anne Frank every summer for at least three or four years in a row.

    Even though this time around, I was not that into the plot, the rhetorical choices in this book are simply amazing. Even the back of the book with its initial statement seems to classify for the reader the importance of the situation. The first thing it points out is that Steve is black. Then goes onto say why and lastly says how old he is. The effect on the reader would be completely different if the order of the phrases were changed up. The combination of journal writing and Steve’s screenplay really let the reader see both sides. As Yulianna mentions, we can read the screenplay and “watch” it play out like an episode of SUV, but then every so often, we are able to connect back with Steve through his journal entries. The journal entries remind us that he is more than just a character in a screenplay, but that this is his story. It also helps to visually be able to see the difference of fonts between the screen play portions and the journal portions. The reader knows that the different parts are meant to be separate entities.

    I wonder how this book would be, if the reader choose to read just the journal entries in a row, or just the screen play without the journal entries. It makes me wonder if it would be like Crank, and parts of it would still make sense.

  17. lmaalexander says:

    I’m a big fan of theatre and I really love reading plays. That being said, I was excited to read Monster. I figured that it would have the same hold over me that plays do. I thought I would be able to vividly picture all of the images and essentially watch a film in my head play out as I read. However, once I started reading, I was honestly disappointed. I couldn’t picture what Myers was writing about and I didn’t really connect with novel in general.

    Of all the books we’ve read thus far, I can definitely see why this one would be debatable for being on the list. The story itself didn’t stun me, and even rhetorically I didn’t find it that interesting. I think that it could easily be replaced with a contemporary play; this would have similar structure to Monster.

    I was thinking this the entire time time I was reading Monster. But now, when I reflect back on it, I can see it differently. As several students were saying in class the other day, they can actually picture the scenes in the book; they know exactly what locations Myers is describing. What’s more, I can definitely see how boys would relate to this text. There is a constant albeit subtle discussion of what is masculinity and what it means to be “tough”. I think that for teenage boys, this is a relatable topic no matter what race, ethnicity or socioeconomic background you are. Also, I’m assuming that many teenage readers haven’t been exposed to reading plays. Therefore, this book is a great introduction to that genre and introduces them to reading dialogue in general whether it’s in script form or elsewhere.

    After thinking about all this, I’m not really sure how I feel about having this book on the syllabus for this class, but I do think that it’s an important book for young adults to read whether in the class or outside.

  18. Katie McLean says:

    Film teacher= archieeeeee!
    Lindsay if you ever write a boring blog just know that I will at least be thoroughly disappointed and empty feeling

  19. Celeste Smith says:

    Upon finishing this book, I found myself wondering, what was the point? We enter Steve’s life when the trial starts, and although we get snippets of his life before the trial throughout the book, I did not find them very informative to the nature of Steve’s character as they mostly revolved around how he knew the other young men involved in the crime. Although it is understandable that I would not identify with a Black male who is involved in the legal system, I think the larger issue in this case was the fact that I never felt I knew who Steve really was. Should I really feel bad for him or even believe his side of the story? This lack of character development of the main character and partial narrator left me confused about the book’s objective. I did not learn how Steve changed as a person, even if he is searching in the end to find out who he is, did not feel like I truly knew what happened December 22nd, and did not feel vindication when Steve was found not guilty or when King was found guilty In fact, I felt very little. Yes, through Steve’s personal accounts I sympathized with the real dangers and struggles of jail life, however it was not because I felt a connection with Steve, but rather because I don’t think that people should have to live in fear of sexual molestation or of being beaten up.
    Another frustrating aspect of the book besides its objective that was unclear was the format of the book. Although I think it would have made a fine movie, I found the screenplay style of writing tedious to read. I found myself trying to skip ahead to the dialogue past the camera instructions, which were often quite lengthy. I not only did not understand or remember their abbreviations and meaning, but also did not understand their purpose. It was also very difficult to keep track of all the characters, as they were referred to interchangeably by both their first and last names, with no character list included.
    By the end of the book, particularly the closing statements, I was very ready to be done with the book. I wanted a real answer of what happened on December 22nd not to be told again what each of the three parties believed happened that day. I also would have liked more development of Steve, especially since it was lacking in the rest of the book as well. For example, what did he learn from the experience, what would he do differently, how did the experience affect his brother, what was he really doing on December 22nd?
    Although I was happy Steve received a not-guilty verdict at the end, it was because I sympathized with him being so young and scared at such a big verdict that could have changed his life. After reflection however, I decided this reaction wasn’t completely warranted based on the lacking character development.

  20. Shane Samuel says:

    I wanted to say this in response to a comment that was said earlier (I forgot her name but she had dark long hair, did not like either MWB or Monster and sat next to Hannah) but we ran out of time. Anyway the comment she said was along the lines of:

    “I think there are people who are hiding behind the ‘lack of structure argument’ because they are afraid to say the reason why they do not like Monster is due to race, but I also think there are people who actually did not like the monster because of structure and are being jumped on because some people feel they are hiding.”

    My response to that is–No. I feel that everyone who said they did not like monster because of structure was afraid to admit that it was because of race. My issue is that our class is suppose to be discussion based, where we can all share our “honest” feelings about the books that we read; and if everyone cannot be honest about “Monster,” then it makes me think about all of the other books that we read. Was everyone really saying how they feel? looking at trend of blog posts that said “I loved/liked this book” makes me think, did they really like that book or is it just bullshit. When we read Crank and a lot of people were saying that they did not like the book because there was not enough backstory about Kristina, was that really the reason; or was it because they did not want to read about a “privileged, all-american white girl” becoming a crackhead/junkie/etc… because it is not the norm.

    What was said about monster in chat and in class really made me look at everyone differently. If we are having a discussion about a book and I (or anyone) am second-guessing everything everyone is saying, wondering if “he really meant that or did she really mean this,” then there is noway in hell we can have a productive discussion because no one would trust each other. It would turn into a situation that I am sure we have all been in, when the professor would ask a question and everyone is sitting there in silence.

    I hope that our discussion would influence everyone to be honest about their feelings and please do not say you “like” Push just because you are afraid of coming off a certain way–be honest. I would rather you be honest than to say what you think people want to hear.

  21. Katie McLean says:

    I have the long brown hair and I want to clarify my point. I actually did like both books– I just didn’t feel strongly about the arguments that we were debating. I liked the structure of Monster, I liked the characters, the ending touched me. I would never say that Monster “lacked” structure.

    From an outsider’s perspective who was listening to the conversation, I was trying to explain the argument that was I seeing. I felt disconnected from it, and when I saw that everyone was frustrated, I felt like I could jump in to try to clear up where it was going. I definitely saw that there was an elephant in the room. I did think that it was possible that some people were burying themselves behind the structure to say that they didn’t connect or enjoy the book, when meanwhile their loss of connection was because of race. But I do think that structure could have been a valid obstacle to the book. Or beyond race, the fact that Stephen is a boy.

    I did not say that the students who did not like the book/structure/race/characters/idea/whatever were being jumped on. In fact, debate is good. It would be boring if we all agreed. I said I didn’t want to be jumped on for intervening.

    Anyway, I hope that people are honest too. It’s important that everyone in the class does not voice opinions superficially or with intent to really mean something that they aren’t thinking. But is it not just as important that we take other’s opinions as face value– and not try to look for the lie that we think might be behind it?

    I hope we can generate some discussion about this.


  22. Anonymous says:

    My response to Shane’s idea that “everyone who said they did not like monster because of structure was afraid to admit that it was because of race,” is flat out wrong in my case. This is me being honest. I did not like Monster. I am taking Shane’s advice to be honest, you say you would rather us “be honest than to say what you think people want to hear.” And I know you’re not going to want to hear that you’re wrong.
    As I said in my original blog:
    “I am in a class called ‘art of the screenplay’ where all we do is read screenplays and they are formatted in a much clearer way than this book. I actually do enjoy reading screenplays because the characters are so well defined they it is usually like a movie playing in your head as you are reading. However in this book, it is so choppy that I feel like I didn’t have the opportunity to tune into the characters and just watch this story unfolding. It also didn’t help that the character names all seemed to blend together. It is always a bad sign that after you have finished a book you have a hard time remembering the names of those in it.”
    I understand that this format mimics the jury’s experience of listening to a case and reaching a conclusion. I also get your point that the way the book is written plays into Steven’s experience in prison. I can appreciate the reasons that Walter Dean Meyers decided to form the story in this way but it just was not effective to me. So telling me that I am wrong, and just masking racism through “not liking the form” really bothers me. I think that comment was a mass-overgeneralization. You can’t just decide the reasons that people like or dislike a book. If I tell you it is because of the format, and you don’t believe me, were do we go from there as a class? How do we have a great class discussion if you think you know better?
    Last thought, in your original blog you say “I read Monster when I was in 7th grade and although I understood the situation, it was a bit of challenge to me because of the way Myers wrote the story (the screenplay format not to mention the sudden transitions back and forth).” Clearly at some point you had some misgivings about the format as well.

  23. Evan Phail says:

    I’m not really sure how you’re coming to your conclusion Shane. It seems that if we as an audience don’t like a certain book, it comes down to race. Of course, this may not be what you mean. However, as you see from other people’s responses, and mine right now, we can ‘honestly’ say that we didn’t like ‘Monster’ and it had nothing to do with race. I’m not even saying that I “didn’t” like Monster. I was indifferent to it. However, race was no factor, if Stephen was white. It wouldn’t make a difference. If he was hispanic, it wouldn’t make a difference to me. Why did I ‘honestly’ not like Monster? Structure does play a big factor whether you may think so or not. That’s why we talk about structure in the first place.

    But also I am interested in whether readers think Stephen is guilty or innocent. Simply…. I think he was guilty (in my interpretation). He made a big mistake in his life and this book is about the consequences. He luckily doesn’t get found guilty. Again, I did not find him guilty because of his race. If he was white, hispanic, or anything else, it wouldn’t make a difference. You may even think that I’m fooling myself, but I am not. Not to get into personal stories, but I can say that although the justice system does discriminate, it also must enforce the law. Stephen was involved in a robbery that turned into a homicide. My cousin served three years in prison for being a ‘lookout’ (very much like Stephen) for a grocery store robbery in the Bronx. Am I going to say that it was unfair because he was Hispanic? No, he made a mistake (and has turned his life around completely) but he suffered the consequences. Same thing is happening to Stephen. This may be the ‘beneath the surface’ interpretation that you want us to see. Whether it’s the ‘injustice’ or discrimination in the courts, but we probably do see it. I can still feel indifferent to the book though.

    I do truly want to know what you want us to take away from the book though, if there’s something that we are missing.