Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

This coming-of-age book by Walter Dean Myers is published by Amistad and HarperTeen, imprints of HarperCollins Publishers.

Monster is written for kids ages 13 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Steve may have made some poor decisions in the last 16 years, but he's not a monster. At least he doesn't think he is. But not everyone agrees with Steve, least of all Sandra Petrocelli, the attorney who is prosecuting him for felony murder. Thankfully, Steve's lawyer, Kathy O'Brien, is doing her best to make the jury see him as a human being.

In his journal, Steve secretly admits to being involved in a drugstore robbery that left a man dead. Steve was supposed to make sure no police officers were in the store before the robbery occurred. Because he gave no signal after leaving the store, Steve doesn't believe that his peripheral involvement makes him guilty of criminal activity. On the witness stand, he denies all connection to the murder.

An aspiring filmmaker, Steve copes with the stress of jail and the trial by writing a movie script about his life and experiences following his arrest and detention. (The script comprises most of the novel's text, interspersed with brief journal entries.) As the trial progresses, Steve alternately chronicles the courtroom proceedings and the brutality of his fellow inmates. He slowly loses hope that he will be acquitted and struggles to cope with the reality that he may spend the next two decades of his life behind bars.

The testimonies finally wind to a close and the jury delivers a verdict. Steve has been found not guilty. He reaches to hug his lawyer, the woman who showed the world that he is not a monster. But Kathy O'Brien refuses to return his hug. She may have convinced the jury that Steve was human, but she couldn't convince herself.

Steve didn't think he was a monster, but now he's not so sure.

Christian Beliefs

Steve's mother brings him a Bible and asks him to read Psalm 28:7 aloud. He does so, although he doesn't feel like rejoicing or singing praises. Steve wonders if, when the guards searched the Bible, they found anything like grace, salvation or compassion.

A preacher visits the jail to ask the inmates if they would like to talk or pray. Steve wants to go forward, but another prisoner says that it's too late to pretend to be holy. Steve attends church services while in jail. A prisoner has a tattoo of the Devil.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Steve's parents visit him regularly in jail, and Steve wishes that he could tell his brother, Jerry, that he loves him. Throughout the trial, Steve's mother leaves cleaned shirts and underwear for him. She tells him that she knows he is innocent, regardless of what happens. Although she and Steve's father try to be upbeat, Steve feels that she is mourning him as though he were dead.

After his arrest, Steve's relationship with his father is tense. During a supervised visit to the jail, Steve's father shares both his affection and his emotional turmoil with his son before telling him that everything will be OK. After the trial, however, Steve's father moves away. Although he wants to believe that Steve did nothing wrong, he doesn't understand the choices Steve made and is no longer sure who Steve is.

The prison guards are harsh and crude. They show no compassion toward the inmates and make it known that they are betting on the outcome of the trial and severity of the sentencing.

Steve remembers wanting to emulate the tough, streetwise men he now recognizes as criminals. Steve admires Mr. Sawicki, the teacher who leads Steve's film club.


Uses of profanity include f--got and d--n.

In prison, violence is normalized, threats are commonplace and strangers find reasons to hurt each other. Inmates have been jailed for various crimes, including robbery, assault, manslaughter and murder. Prisoners beat up inmates who show signs of weakness. A prisoner is hit in the face with a tray so hard that he bleeds. Two prisoners fight at a church service. One man has a handmade knife. Steve is afraid all the time.

Steve throws a rock that hits a young woman. The tough-looking young man who was walking with her mistakenly thinks that Steve's friend Tony threw the rock and punches Tony. Tony tells Steve that he wants to get an Uzi and blow the young man's brains out.

Black-and-white pictures of the deceased drugstore owner, Mr. Nesbitt, are shown as evidence. Steve finds them difficult to view. Evidence is also presented that proves Mr. Nesbitt died by drowning in his own blood.

When a detective testifies that the death penalty may be considered, Steve imagines a guard inserting a plug into his rectum so he won't defecate during his execution. A witness admits to taking part in a gang initiation that involves fighting a gang member and knifing a stranger in the face. A neighbor mentions that a local child was shot while sitting on a doorstep.


An inmate testifies that he was being sexually harassed by other (male) prisoners and that they threatened to gang-rape him. Steve listens as a man in his cell is beaten and raped. Whenever they aren't talking about hurting one another, prisoners talk about sex. A guard mockingly offers to find a boyfriend for an inmate. Another guard makes a sexual joke about one of the female jurors.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at ThrivingFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Drugs: An inmate is accused of possessing drugs with the intent to sell them. Women speculate that the drugstore was robbed by addicts who needed money for drugs. A character smokes marijuana.

Suicide: Belts are taken away from prisoners to make it more difficult for them to kill themselves. Steve wonders if the inability to commit suicide is part of the prisoner's punishment. He wonders if he would commit suicide if he were sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Lying: Steve and other inmates lie while on the witness stand.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

For additional parenting resources, download a free issue of Thriving Family, a marriage and parenting magazine published by Focus on the Family, at ThrivingFamily.com/magazine.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

13 and up


Walter Dean Myers






Record Label



Amistad and HarperTeen, imprints of HarperCollins Publishers


On Video

Year Published



National Book Award Finalist, Young People's Literature, 1999; Coretta Scott King Honor Award, 2000; YALSA Michael L. Printz Award, 2000


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!