"Maybe I could make my own movie. I could write it out and play it in my head. I could block out the scene like we did in school. The film will be the story of my life. No, not this life, but of this experience. I'll write it down in the notebook they let me keep. I'll call it what the lady who is the prosecutor called me. Monster."


By: Walter Dean Myers
Published: 1999

Fade in: Imagine that you are 16 years old on trial for your part in a robbery/murder. You claim you have no part at all in the crime, but the prosecutor seems to have witnesses that put you at the crime scene. You dream to one day become a famous director in Hollywood but for now you are stuck in prison with the never ending violence that surrounds you and all you can think is "I hate this place. I hate this place...I hate, hate, hate this place!!"(46) The only thing that keeps you sane is to keep a journal of your experiences while in jail and on trial. You turn it into a screenplay because movie-making is your passion. This is Monster.

Walter Dean Myers structures Monster in medias res, starting the novel in the jail cell with the main character Steve Harmon. The reader is in his head, thinking his thoughts, always questioning whether or not Steve is guilty. The reader is faced with a decision: Is Steve telling the truth that he was never at the crime scene or is he lying to everyone, including himself? Did he in fact take part in a robbery gone bad? Is he really the "monster" the prosecutor has portrayed him as?

The novel is written as a screen play, giving stage directions, and as a journal, in which the reader gets to know about Steve's life before the murder and his inner thoughts about his time spent in jail. As the reader struggles with the question of Steve's guilt, they must also face the reality of the world he lives in and the prison in which he now awaits his trial.

myers.gifAbout the Author:

Walter Dean Myers was born in 1937 in West Virginia. At the age of three his foster parents moved to Harlem and he lived there for the next 14 years of his life. In 1954, he made the decision to quit high school and join the Army. He served 4 years and went on to earn a BA from Empire State College. Myers love of writing began in his chaotic childhood and steadily grew as he became an adult. He was first published at the age of 32 with the book Where Does the Day Go? after winning the Council on Interracial Books for Children contest. He has published numerous young adult novels including Fallen Angels, Hoops, Scorpions and many more. His feels that young adult texts have an important spot in the world of literature, claiming "the special place of the young adult novel should be in its ability to address the needs of the reader to understand his or her relationships with the world, with each other, and with adults. The young adult novel often allows the reader to directly identify with a protagonist of similar interests and development"(Myers). Myers has also published non-fiction works and a historical novel The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner. He now lives in New Jersey and continues to be active participant in the American writing community.

Other Works by this Author:

Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly
Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam
Bad Boy: A Memior
It Ain't All For Nothin'

Notes for Teachers:

  • Because of the way this book is written, as a screen play, it makes it very easy for students to break up into groups and act out different scenes of the story. Parts could be divided within the groups, each acting out a character.
    On the other hand, this mix of journal writing and a screen play could also allow students to write their own journal entries, as Steve. Students could be asked to take a role, either innocent or guilty and write in their journals taking that role.
  • Because of this mix of journal and screen play, students could become confused or frustrated when reading, this should be kept in mind when choosing this book for your class.
  • Teachers could work side by side with the government teacher, incorporating not only an English lesson, but importance of the judicial system. This novel could branch to several areas including moral/ethics and how they play a role in real life situations.
  • Students could be asked to create their own movie trailer using the information already given to them in the book. (See useful links for an example of a movie trailer created by students.)

Click here to purchase Monster lesson plans.
Click here for free lesson plans on Monster and other works by Myers.

Useful Links:

Life in Prison : An article about three teens found guilty of a felony murder, where only one of the teens did the actual killing. This could be used in a classroom as a real life example of Monster .
Making up Megaboy by Virginia Walter: If you enjoyed Monster you may also enjoy this book which displays a similar situation in a different way. Read the review and find out!
Michigan's Murder Laws : A government site that states Michigan's laws and penalties when it comes to murder. This could help students get a better understanding of what Steve Harmon is actually on trial for.
Monster Movie Trailer: Check out this movie trailer made by students for their English Literature Circle.
Northern University : A professor's page on Walter Dean Myer's life and his novel Monster .
Official Myers Website : A site that includes Walter Dean Myer's bio, reviews of his works, his upcoming appearances, and also his contact information (e-mail address).
The Death Penalty: This information center offers news, reports, issues, etc. about the Death Penalty. Since this issue is mentioned in Monster teachers may want to give students a better understanding of the concept.
Walter Dean Myers : A site with some background about Walter Dean Myer's life. Also includes interviews and the authors own words about his life.
What is it like to be in jail?: This is a discussion board that displays responses to this question based on people's experiences in jail.
Who is in a courtroom?: A list of people that might be seen while in the courtroom along with their role description.
Writing a Screenplay: Click here to learn how to write your own screenplay similar to the way Steve Harmon does in Monster.
Click play below to watch a video of Walter Dean Myers.

Page Edited by Kristin Palkowski, Jessica Postma, Colleen Ryan, Desi San Miguel