In Walter Dean Myers's Monster, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial on a felony murder charge for his role in a drugstore robbery gone wrong. The prosecutor portrays Steve as a monster, and he struggles mightily with that label, for he has always considered himself a good person deep down. The book presents Steve's experiences through his own eyes in the form of his personal journal and a screenplay that he composes about his trial.
At the end of the trial, Steve is acquitted. Even though he might have served as a lookout of sorts for the men who robbed the drugstore and shot its owner, Steve did no more than scan the place for cops beforehand. At least, that is what Steve's account suggests. The level of his involvement is left open. He is certainly not guilty of murder in any legal sense, and the jury recognizes that.
Steve, however, cannot get over the label of “monster.” After the “not guilty” verdict, Steve turns to his defense attorney, Kathy O'Brien, with his arms open for a hug. He is so relieved at not having to go to prison that he wants to reach out to thank her for helping the jury see that he is a human being who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. O'Brien, however, turns away from Steve, and he realizes that deep down, she, too, must think that he is a monster.
The last pages of the book return to Steve's journal and are written five months after the trial. The murderers are in jail, and Steve is free. Yet part of him is not free, for he still struggles to figure out who he is and whether he really is a monster. He films himself a lot, trying to see into his own depths. He experiments with different clothes and voices. He knows that his mother is grateful that he is not in jail, but he feels that the distance between him and his father has grown bigger. Steve thinks that his father is no longer sure who his son actually is, but Steve may be projecting his own insecurity in this.
The book ends with a question. Steve remembers how O'Brien turned away from him after the verdict, and he wonders, “What did she see?”