A Library of the School of EducationDPIUW-Madison School Of EducationUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonUW-Madison LibraryUW-Madison Catalog
About the CCBC
Authors and Illustrators
Recommended Books for Children and Young Adults
CCBC Calendar and Events
CCBC Podcasts
CCBC Publications
Intellectual Freedom

Support the CCBC
Support the CCBC
Are you a...K-12 TeacherLibrarianEarly Childhood Care ProviderUW Student / Faculty


by Walter Dean Myers
Illustrated by Christopher Myers

Published by HarperCollins, 1999
1999 pages
ISBN: 281

Ages 13 and older

Walter Dean Myers's striking story of an African American teenage boy on trial for murder is a powerful exploration of innocence as both a state of mind and a matter of perception, as well as a label attached to actions both explicit and implied. Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is accused of being an accomplice in a drugstore robbery in which the storekeeper was murdered. While awaiting and then enduring the trial, the teenager is being held in jail with adults. Myers weaves together journal entries that Steve writes in jail with a filmmaker's script chronicling the courtroom events. A talented filmmaking student at his high school, Steve, who feels as if he has walked into the middle of a movie, filters his trial through his filmmaker's eye to put some distance between himself and the out-of-control turn that his life has taken. Only in the journal does he close the distance, and his entries reveal his intense fear. What his journal entries do not reveal is whether or not Steve was actually involved in the robbery, and the action in the courtroom is no more revealing. Was Steve an innocent bystander fingered by others involved to lessen their own sentences, or was he a kid who thought, before his world came crashing down, that it was possible to maintain a mantle of innocence by playing just a small role in a crime that was never supposed to end in murder--acting as an advance lookout rather than actually robbing the store? This riveting, highly discussable novel provides an intense and eye-opening look at both human nature and the criminal justice system, and both are called into question. The prosecutor labels Steve a "monster," and it is an idea--a question about himself--that Steve cannot shake. Nor can readers, not because Steve is a monster but rather because he so clearly is not. CCBC categories: Fiction for Teenagers.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

book cover
Book of the Week

In accordance with the UW-Madison Accessibility Policy, this site makes every effort to comply with the World Wide Web standards defined in the Federal Rehabilitation Act Section 508, specifically subsections 1194.22 and subsection 1194.31. If you need additional resources or have any questions or concerns about this site, please contact the site administrator for more information.
UW crest