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.

 

Crystal 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.

Book cover image courtesy of FictionDB.com

Crystal by Walter Dean Myers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

“Modeling is a tough racket. You have to put up with a lot of garbage. You’re earning this money.”

Crystal is at the beginning of a glamorous modeling career in New York City. But what begins as an exciting experience for the sixteen-year-old becomes more than she bargained for in Crystal by author Walter Dean Myers.

I first read this YA novel back in my adolescence. Although the latest edition I read this time may have more than one detail updated from the edition I read decades ago, I can still see why the story painted such an accessible picture for me back then. It says enough, and ultimately hits pretty hard, without spelling everything out.

Yes, this is a story about the entertainment industry, modeling intersecting with television and movies, but of course, the importance is in Crystal’s journey of self-discovery. And what I understand more this time around is an aspect of the pressure of Crystal’s opportunity where her parents are concerned. Now, there were places where I didn’t get the best sense of Crystal’s personality, and this isn’t a sparkling tale with a happy-go-lucky ending, but it’s a compelling one.

This may be the only novel I read by this late author back in the day, but I plan on trying at least a little more of his work.

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Note to my blog readers: this novel contains some sensual material related to modeling and show business, although the content isn’t too explicit.

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A copy of the 1989 mass market paperback edition pictured above was the first one I read. I prefer that cover because sometimes characters in the story think Crystal is mixed, or that she’s something other than Black, which adds its own nuance to the racial aspect of the story.
The 2002 edition pictured below is the one I read this time.