Review by: Ivan K.
Pennsylvania, Grade 10
MONSTER is about a young man on trial for committing a robbery and a felony murder. The story is mainly set inside of the main character’s (Steve) head. While he is on trial he writes every detail about what happens in the courtroom then later plans to make his experiences into a movie. The story takes place in Manhattan and Harlem, New York City, mostly in a city lockup, but sometimes in the neighborhood where Steve Harmon lives. All of the characters that take stand in this trial explain what they know about the crime that has been committed so they take you back to the crime scene, and also what happens afterwards. < \p> <\br>
There are many characters in this story that made it a little bit tricky for me to keep up. The main character’s name is Steve Harmon, he is an African American that is 16 years old who has been arrested for acting as the look-out in robbery that goes bad and ends in a murder. He is the narrator for the story, writing it in the form of a screenplay. His attorney is a middle aged white woman, her name is Kathy O’Brian. Her main goal is to distance Steve from everyone else who was a part of this crime because he really did not do anything illegal in the situation that he was in, but he was still a part of the crime. Another main character was James King he is also an African American, he is in his early twenties. He encourages Steve to be a part of his “crew” which will rob the drugstore. He is accused of being in the drugstore, wrestling Mr. Nesbitt (drugstore owner) for the gun, and ultimately shooting him. Richard “Bobo” Evans is the other young man accused of being in the store at the time of the murder. He is stealing the money from the register and grabbing the cartons of cigarettes when the gun goes off. He makes a deal with the prosecution to testify against King and Steve to get a lighter sentence for a different crime. He has been charged previously for committing a number of different crimes. The other individual part of this crime was Osvaldo Cruz; it was his job to stand outside and trip up anyone who tries to catch them after they rob the store. He claims he did it, because he was afraid of Bobo.<\p> <\br>
The theme of this story is based on many ideas. Some are very obvious. The most prevalent one was peer pressure. Steve has got caught up with the wrong crew that basically pressures him into committing a serious crime with them. In a sense it makes me think that since Steve is hanging around “tough guys” that he feels more like a man, and that gets him caught up in lots of trouble. Another main theme in this story is the race and the justice system. It is very powerful, when the jurors see a young black man accused of a crime they think since he is raised in a bad neighborhood and is African American that he is “more likely” to commit the crime. For Steve Harmon that is very hard to get past by. For him this is a serious story, he either will turn up not guilty and get released or spend most of his life behind bars.<\p> <\br>
If I had to rate this book it would be a definite 5 star book. It has won multiple awards such as Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, Coretta Scott King Award, and it was a National Book Award Finalist. The reason I enjoyed this book so much because it was very intense in the courtroom it really made me feel like I was on trial for something like that. As a young high school student I do not usually choose to read books but this book really caught my attention, it had lots of suspense and I was excited to see what was on the next page each time. I recommend this book to any reader. Definitely, if you read a lot of books you will really like MONSTER; people who don’t like to read will really love this book also. Guaranteed!