Walter Dean Myers is a very engrossing novel about a shooting on
a high school campus. The novel is constructed as the "Threat Analysis
Report" of the Harrison County School Safety Committee. As such it
contains various documents, newspaper clippings, interviews, and a diary from
which the reader must reconstruct the story.
is set at Madison High School, Harrison Co. A fatal shooting, also known as
"the incident", has occurred. This is all the reader knows at the
beginning of the novel. What actually occurred at Madison
High School on the morning of April
22nd is left up to the reader to reconstruct from the variety of documents that
compose the body of the novel. The first two items are interviews conducted
with Cameron Porter, a 17-year old male and one of the few African Americans at
the high school. Cameron is smart and upper class. His parents are
self-absorbed in their focus on money and status. According to Cameron, his
over-achieving father views him as failing to live up to his potential. When
Cameron fails to make the basketball team, his father pulls strings and Cameron
is placed on the team in lieu of a more skilled player. In retaliation the
school's jocks", Cameron's source of friends, turn against him. Ostracized
by the jocks, Cameron is an open to Len Gray's offer of friendship. Carla
Evans, the second interviewee, is a 17-year old white female. Troubled, a
loner, and a victim of abuse, Carla is open to Len's offer of friendship and
membership in "Ordo Saggitae"
a group formed by Len. Slowly, an image of Len is formed. Len Gray is a 16-year
old loner. He is troubled with depression, very bright and focused on guns,
shooting, and death. His intelligence and savvy aid him to gather a group of
other loners, misfits, and victims of bullying into a loyal band of followers.
Len tests their loyalty through ever increasing acts of vandalism and violence.
Finally, the picture of Len Gray that ultimately emerges from his diary is one
of a ticking time bomb waiting for just the right incident to trigger an
The structure of the book offers a
unique perspective on school violence. Seen through the eyes of those involved,
it relates the slow yet subtle way a natural leader can manipulate vulnerable
young people. It demonstrates how the leader slowly, but steadily destroys
their moral fiber. I found the interviews with Cameron particularly insightful.
Interviewed by a psychologist, a FBI special agent, and a sheriff, Cameron
alters his descriptions of events and even his revealed feelings. It is
interesting to see how the manner of the interviewer impacted the interviewee's
responses. While the style might have lead to a dry almost antiseptic text,
Myers does an excellent job of pulling it off with great feeling.
Walter Dean Myers
is the author of more than 75 books for young people. Myers was born in West
Virginia but raised in Harlem.
His autobiography which was written for young people is entitled, Bad Boy: a Memoir (2002). He has
received many awards, including National Endowment of the Arts grant (1982
& 1989); the MacDowell Fellowship (1988);
American Library Association (ALA) Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime
Achievement in Writing for Young Adults (1994), and ALAN Award (1994). Many of
his books have received awards including, Where Does the Day Go? (1968 Council on Interracial Books for Children
Award); The Dancers (1972 Child Study
Association of America's Children's Books of the Year); Fast Sam, Cool Clyde and Stuff (1975 ALA Notable Children's Books
List); Ain't All for Nothin'
(1978 ALA Notable Children's Books List, 1978 ALA Best Books For Young Adults
List); The Young Landlords (1980 Coretta Scott King Award, 1979 ALA Notable Children's Books
List, 1979 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); Legend of Tarik (1982 Notable Children's
Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies from the National Council for Social
Studies and the Children's Book Council, 1981 ALA Notable Children's Books
List,1981 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); Hoops (1994 Margaret A. Edwards Award, 1982 Edgar Allan Poe Award
runner-up, 1982 ALA Notable Children's Books List, 1982 ALA Best Books For
Young Adults List); Won't Know Til' I Get There (1982 Parents' Choice Foundation
Award); Tales of a Dead King (1983
New Jersey Institute Technology Authors Award); The Outside Shot (1984 Parents' Choice Foundation Award); Motown (1985 Coretta
Scott King Award); Didi (1985 Coretta Scott King Award); Adventure in Granada (1987 Child Study Association of
America's Children's Books of the Year); Fallen
Angels (1989 Coretta Scott King Award, 1988
Parents' Choice Foundation Award, 1988 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); Me, Mop, and the Moondance
Kid (1988 ALA Notable Children's Books List); Scorpions
(1989 Newbery Honor Book, 1988 ALA Notable Children's
Books List, 1988 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); Now Is Your Time (1992 Coretta Scott King
Award,1992 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List); Somewhere in the Darkness (1993 Newbery
Honor Book, 1993 Coretta Scott King Award,1993 ALA
Notable Children's Books List, 1993 ALA Best Books For Young Adults List,1992
Boston Globe/Horn Book Award,); Malcolm X
(1994 Coretta Scott King Award); Slam! 1997 Coretta Scott King Award; Harlem (1998 Caldecott Honor Book, 1998 Coretta Scott King Award, 1998 ALA Best Books For Young
Adults List); and Monster (1999
Michael L. Printz Award, 1999 Coretta
Scott King Author Honor Award, and 1998 National Book Award Finalist). Mr.
Myers lives in New Jersey with
his family. Shooter (2004) is his latest novel.
Shooter by Walter Dean Myers is
a suspense filled, well-written novel. I truly believe that this will be
another award winner. The book is recommended for Grade 8 and up. Some descriptions of violence
against people and animals may be too intense for sensitive readers. I highly
recommend this book.
© 2004 Su Terry
Su Terry: Education:
B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from
Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral
Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in
Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in
Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a
Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in
Library Science at Dowling College,
Long Island, NY.