By now, everyone probably knows how much I love Walter Dean Myers as an author. So, here's another booktalk of a very highly decorated book in terms of awards:
Monster by Walter Dean Myers, 1999.
Here's the scene: Mr. Nesbitt is a bodega (convenience store) owner who keeps a gun in his store to protect himself and the store. Supposedly, a young man goes into the store prior to a burglary for the purpose of ensuring that no cops are present. Two other young men then rob the store owner. In the course of the burglary, one of the young men gets ahold of Mr. Nesbitt's gun, then kills him with it. This is the story of the trial of the young man who "cased" the store (made sure that no police officers were present) — he's on trial for felony murder.
Monster is written in the style of a screenplay. Steve Harmon, accused of casing the store prior to the burglary, is writing a movie of his trial experience: scenes of the trial interspersed with his personal diary entries. It's courtroom trial drama at its best. Steve is a 15-year-old boy who stands to lose his freedom for the foreseeable future. The content includes conversations between Steve and his lawyer, Ms. O'Brien; scenes of past times with his friends; scenes from juvy (juvenile) jail; and his personal thoughts about the entire process. A man was killed, but is there sufficient evidence to send Steve away for life?
Was Steve an innocent party, wrongly accused by guilty boys simply attempting to save their own skin? Did he enter the store on December 22, the day of the murder? Was he "checking out" the store to ensure that no cops were present? Did he want to, or agree to, participate in a burglary? Or was he a good boy simply working on a film project for a teacher who obviously thought highly of him?
Want to see what a murder trial might be like? You can read closing arguments, questions by prosecuting and defense attorneys, and answers by witnesses, including the testimony of a defendant on his own behalf!
This book has won the Printz & Coretta Scott King awards and has been named a National Book Award finalist.