October/November/December ’15 Update – Ashley

Yeah, so…. clearly, my “free time” during the school year is very limited, hence the lack of reading.  😦

** A second note… This draft has been saved since December…  Guess I should probably publish it…

* Monster by Walter Dean Myers (new read) – This is one of the books from the list that was immediately intriguing to me.  I hadn’t heard of it before, which surprised me because it was published in 1999 and won  several notable awards.  The premise of the story also appealed to me, as do so many stories of social injustice and civil rights.  Despite being attracted to this book from the beginning, it was the onslaught of recent events involving black teenagers and police officers that really inspired me to finally open the book.

Monster-Walter-DeanSteve Harmon is sixteen, black, and in jail facing a murder conviction.  Monster follows Steve’s trial through two unique perspectives – one, journal entries recorded by Steve throughout the trial and two, a movie script Steve is writing about the trial in order to help him process what’s happening.  Steve maintains his innocence in the crime, despite a number of other participants who claim his involvement.  His journal entries and movie script flashbacks provide additional background information, while also moving the plot forward.  The most riveting aspect of the novel for me however, was Steve’s self-reflection throughout the process.  He is labeled a “monster” by the prosecutor and begins to wonder if that’s how he is seen by the world.  He relives particular moments leading up to the murder, seemingly trying to decipher his own actions and evaluate his every move.  Even at the end of the story, after the verdict is handed down, Steve’s journey of self-discovery is continuous.

My Take: An important book to read, for sure.  I think the content is incredibly important now, in that it challenges some notions that need challenging in terms of social justice and our legal system.  I can see this book as an excellent starting place for classroom and/or dinner table discussions.  I also think the book is worth reading for it’s unique format alone.  As a teacher, I want students of all ages to understand that not all books look, feel, or sound the same.  Walter Dean Myers chose to write this book this way for a reason – it really provides some humanity to a character labeled as a “monster” from the outside.  As the reader, we get exclusive access to Steve’s thoughts, fears, worries, and self-doubt.  The irony is that this is the part of Steve that the jury deciding his fate never gets to see, yet it’s also the part that makes him more relatable and raw, which made me believe in his innocence far more than any evidence provided by his attorney.

** Look here for Tiffany’s review of the same book. **

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