Monster

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
Monster Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Provocative book about teen on trial for murder.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 11 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 32 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The high drama in this dialogue-driven story will appeal to even reluctant readers. And teens will appreciate debating whether Steve's guilty or not, and related issues, such as the fairness of our judicial system.

Positive Messages

Readers will ponder Myers' point about how the road from innocence to trouble is taken in small, almost invisible steps, each involving a "lack of positive moral decision."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Teen readers will feel Steve's terror and confusion, struggle with if he is guilty or not, and hope that he is found not guilty.

Violence

Although the book describes nothing directly, violence pervades the story. People are beaten up, and a man is shot. The main character is terrified that he'll be sent to prison. Rape of prison inmates is implied.

Sex

A 14-year-old boy testifies that he's gotten a girl pregnant.

Language

For all the book's realism, the profanity is infrequent and mild to moderate. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book is about a teen on trial for murder. While part of the story is told as a movie script, it employs highly realistic writing, with both poor and proper grammar used appropriately for each character. Grainy photographs contribute to the realistic atmosphere. There is some gritty material: characters are beaten up, the rape of inmates is implied, and Steve is terrified of being sent to prison. The high drama in this dialogue-driven story will appeal to even reluctant readers. And teens will appreciate debating whether Steve's guilty or not, and related issues, such as the fairness of our judicial system.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byteach26 March 26, 2009

Appropriate and Necessary

First of all, the sexual references in this book are so slight and passing they are negligible, and second--there is nothing "immoral" or wrong with s... Continue reading
Parent of a 7, 9, 12, and 13-year-old Written byConservative Mom November 10, 2009

Inappropriate for under 17!

As a parent, I am so disappointed that my child's teacher assigned this book and now she will be ostricized because I will most definately NOT allow her to... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old January 23, 2015

Wake up and smell the coffee-A great book is here

1
I've seen a lot of parent reviews that say that this isn't appropriate for a 13 year old. I even saw one that claimed the book was 'shallow... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bykatnisslovegood May 2, 2021

Really makes you think

There were a few parts that mentioned rape in the jail. (Nothing was described; it only actually happened once, I think, and it was such a short mention that yo... Continue reading

What's the story?

Steve's in jail, on trial for murder. He's young, he's terrified, and he's black. He's sure no one will believe him. Does Steve even believe in himself? You decide when you read this fast-moving book written like a movie script. The courtroom mystery hits home with enough drama and realism to attract even reluctant readers.

 

Is it any good?

The suspense and drama keep reluctant readers turning the pages, while more advanced readers will respond to the issues raised. Walter Dean Myers writes about human beings who make their own choices and react to their own circumstances -- even the minor characters have enough individuality to ring true -- and, as a result, teen readers care about them. They want Steve to be found not guilty, even as they try to figure out if Steve really is guilty. Steve's feelings about himself, his terror of jail, and his reaction to the epithet "monster," leave the reader guessing.

The format of this taut story regulates the pacing. Edge-of-the-seat courtroom scenes written entirely in dialogue wind the reader up, then thoughtful journal entries allow readers to catch their breaths. Readers can feel Steve's terror and confusion, and will ponder Myers' point about how the road from innocence to trouble is taken in small, almost invisible steps, each involving a "lack of positive moral decision."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether 16-year-old Steve is guilty or not. What would you decide if you were a juror? Was he just at the wrong place at the wrong time?

  • This book has received a number of awards, including being named a National Book Award finalist and winning the Printz Award. Do you think it deserves all the recognition and praise? Why or why not?

Book details

Our editors recommend

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate