2010 National Book Award Finalist,
Young People's Literature

Walter Dean Myers


Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

Photo credit: Constance Myers


When I first got to Progress, it freaked me out to be locked in a room and unable to get out. But after a while, when you got to thinking about it, you knew nobody could get in, either.

It seems as if the only progress that's going on at Progress juvenile facility is moving from juvy jail to real jail. Reese wants out early, but is he supposed to just sit back and let his friend Toon get jumped? Then Reese gets a second chance when he's picked for the work program at a senior citizens' home. He doesn't mean to keep messing up, but it's not so easy, at Progress or in life. One of the residents, Mr. Hooft, gives him a particularly hard time. If he can convince Mr. Hooft that he's a decent person, not a criminal, maybe he'll be able to convince himself.


Walter Dean Myers was a Finalist for the National Book Award in 1999 for Monster and in 2005 for Autobiography of My Dead Brother. He is a New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author who has garnered much respect and admiration for his fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for young people. Winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award, he is considered one of the preeminent writers for children. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his family.


Walter Dean Myers' website

Walter Dean Myers' author interviews and podcasts on adlit.org

Walter Dean Myers' webpage at Rutgers University


The first thing I had to do was to cop the time from whoever brought me a meal. Then I would mark that off, and the next time they brought me a meal I would mark that off, and then divide that into sections.

The room was getting darker. Soon it would be so dark I would have to feel my way to the cot. But I wasn’t feeling bad about it anymore. Maybe if I stayed in detention for months, or even years, it would be different. But I could put up with bad stuff happening to me.

Then why do I fight all the time?

Because fighting is good. When you fight you’re alive, you’re somebody. You’re not standing in the corridor with your hands behind your back. Maybe that’s it, that you’re free, swinging your fists, letting people know who you are. Even if you’re going to die. That kid who beat up Mr. Hooft, maybe he knew more than Mr. Hooft thought. Maybe he knew he was going to die but needed to be somebody for that minute. Like the guys in the hood running down the streets throwing signs and spitting smack like they’re bulletproof but knowing they aren’t. Knowing they aren’t.

I could do detention. Sitting there in the dark, trembling as the minutes slipped by. It didn’t make any difference how slow it went. I was locked in and the rest of the world was locked out. I couldn’t touch them, but they couldn’t touch me, either.

I’m all right.

When they finally let me out, I was jumpy, off balance. It’s how they wanted me to feel.