The Book Reviews – Website

June 5, 2010


Filed under: M — thebookreviews @ 7:11 pm
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Author: Walter Dean Myers                      

Page Length:  281

Reading Level:  5

Genre:  Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY & REVIEW:  This story was about a young boy, Steve Harmon, who is arrested and put into jail for allegedly murdering a drug shop owner on Christmas of the previous year.  Steve makes the episode like a play or movie and is working on it for a class project.  Therefore, the novel takes on two different forms.   Some of the sections open with a narrative from Steve, like notes written in his notebook.   The other sections are in a screenplay format where the characters’ names are presented in capital letters and camera directions accompany the play dialogue. 

The overall plot is quite simple.   The reader hears from Steve Harmon in a narrative as he describes his feelings about how it’s like to be in jail and on trial for murder.   The story then used flashback devices with home scenes to picture Steve being arrested. The flashback devices also showed how the trial events affected Steve’s family.   Another plot theme emerges which is more of a psychological one.   Steve’s emotions are thrown around as he doubts his own innocence.  He describes himself as a monster, and has very little faith in the justice system.  He has fear and doubt. The jailhouse environment scares him to death.  Unfortunately, Steve believes that his attorney thinks he is guilty of the crime which doesn’t help his morale.  His mom still loves him and is convinced that her son is being set up.  His father, on the other hand, separates himself some from his son, and acts as though he doesn’t know him. 

The story goes back and forth from jail to courtroom and then back again. His father no longer knows who his son is.  Even Steve is not sure himself.  He questions whether he is a good person or a monster.  The reader hears the plot through glimpses of Steve’s neighborhood of Harlem and the other defendants in the case.  As the reader hears the story of the murder of the drug store owner he or she begins to draw a conclusion about the other people in the story, and who might be the guilty suspects.   Of course the drama builds as the story draws to a close.  Steve’s attorney, Kathy O”Brien, tells Steve that his chances are slim unless he is able to be shown as distant from Mr. King.   The two sided affect of the situation becomes a clear threat to Steve’s life as he may face 20 years to life in prison.  Fortunately, Kathy O’Brien finally decides that Steve must take the stand to show off his best side.   The ending is quite a climax as the reader really doesn’t know what to expect.


4.9 draw upon experience for word meanings

4.10 know main idea and details supporting it

4.11 connect and compare ideas

4.12 analyze characters

REVIEWED BY:  Linda Schwegler


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