Inside Modern Minds and Madness: On The Work of Walter Dean Myers
A Double Review by Caleb T. Maupin
Monster by Walter Dean Myers (1999)
Shooter by Walter Dean Myers (2005)
Walter Dean Myers is the author many socially conscious, radical, psychological, and intensely political teen novels. As far as modern, mainstream teen fiction is concern, the two works of Meyers’ Monster and Shooter remain by far the most politically advanced I found in the genre.
The novels deal with the issues of racism, poverty, violence, alienation, fascism, the prison industrial complex, and various other issues.
The novel Monster deals with a youth accused of murder and facing the death penalty if convicted. The youth is mistakenly accused of being co-conspirator of two other Black youth who carried out the murder. It is assumed that he is an accomplice for no other reason than that he is Black as well, and that he walked into the store where the clerk was murdered shortly before the murder took place.
The novel takes inside the prisons of the U.S., and shows the horrendous conditions and abuse. The novel also takes inside the mind of a Black youth growing up in inner-city poverty in the late 90s. The novel shows us the discrimination and abuse he suffers from authority, and his struggle to define himself apart from the role society has already assigned him.
The style of the novel is extremely artistic, as it alternates from the personal diary of the protagonist and a screenplay he has written about his near death experience of being tried for a capital crime. The title of book Monster is what the prosecutor refers to main character as, despite the fact that he had nothing to do with the crime. We soon learn that the name “Monster” is not a label given specifically to our protagonist, but by the repressive society to all young Black males who live as an occupied nation within its borders.
Read full review here.