Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Half of those jurors…believed you were guilty the moment they laid eyes on you. You’re young, you’re Black, and you’re on trial. What else do they need to know?

At sixteen years old, Steve Harmon is on trial as an accomplice to a murder. As a high school student with an interest in filmmaking, Steve records his time in jail and in the courtroom in the form of a screenplay, titling it what the prosecutor called him: Monster by author Walter Dean Myers.

Count this as the only time I’ve ever read a novel written as a movie. That immediately got my attention when I picked up this YA book on an impulse.

But what I came to appreciate most about the story? It didn’t turn out to be the oversimple tale it could have been. It may be easy to string together a bunch of clichés concerning a hot button topic, to insert them into a predictable plot, and then—BAM!—you’ve got a novel about a hot social “issue.”

This novel isn’t that. Yes, it relevantly takes a social climate into account, but it isn’t merely using that to spin a drama together, nor is it just a ride or a race to figure out whodunit. Rather, this is a story of lost innocence. It’s a story of reflection, of questions.

Haunting questions.

And it seems to me, the novel’s value is in getting readers, especially (but not only) young adults, to reflect. To question. Perhaps to even form a habit of reflecting, of seriously thinking about what’s important, before trouble demands it.

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Note to my blog readers: this novel contains some violent material within and outside of jail.

 

Stand Your Ground by Victoria Christopher Murray

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Stand Your Ground by Victoria Christopher Murray

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Janice. The mother of Marquis, a teenaged boy who’s been shot.

Meredith. The wife of the man who shot Marquis.

Wyatt. The white man accused of shooting and killing Marquis–who was black. Was Wyatt only standing his ground, as the law permits?

Stand Your Ground by author Victoria Christopher Murray is one of those novels that’s hard for me to rate. Even though ratings generally reflect how readers feel about a book, folks still judge a book’s merit by its ratings. The measure of a reader’s feelings and the measure of a book’s merit aren’t necessarily the same.

This novel made me feel a number of emotions, including anger and sadness, as it’s indeed a tragic story, in more ways than one. I was intrigued during a few moments, but on the whole, the story didn’t surprise me. I do like how not all the characters of either race think exactly alike, none of them are perfect people, and there’s some nuance in the black community’s response to the killing.

Now, while the novel doesn’t have any words that network television would bleep out nowadays, there’s some language I don’t appreciate seeing in ChristFic. Other times the writing seems repetitive, clichéd, or keyword conscious, as if to fit in or repeat certain common phrases.

More importantly, I would’ve liked to see more purpose and dimension for some of the characters. Although I liked seeing Meredith’s perspective, she ultimately doesn’t seem pivotal to the plot. The story’s “bad guys” are like caricatures, and in the end, Wyatt’s character just didn’t make sense to me.

In all, my biggest takeaways from this read are reminders not to take prejudgments as facts and to beware of accepting “loud” perceptions without thinking critically, without searching and listening carefully, listening closely, for truth.

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Note to my blog readers: this novel contains some violence and sensual material for mature audiences.