Although he has written and published more than one hundred books, Walter Dean Myers is most famous for being the author of Monster, a book in memoir form about a school shooter. His works of fiction are usually directed at a young adult audience, and his protagonists are, for the most part, misunderstood young adults. It makes perfect sense, then, to learn from his memoir Bad Boy that Myers was once one of those misunderstood young adults himself, and that his own teen self seems to be the inspiration and the basis for a great many of his fictional main characters.
Born to a black mother and father, Myers was adopted at a very young age by his father's first wife and her second husband. He adored his adoptive parents; his mother, Florence, was part German and part Native American, and his father, a black man named Herbert Dean. The memoir spans the first seventeen years of Myers' life, beginning on a childhood spent growing up in a mixed race, middle class family. An avid reader, Myers was surprisingly falling behind in school and acting out from frustration. He also had a speech impediment that was like a red rag to a bull in attracting bullies.
Lashing out at his tormentors only brought Myers a reputation as a troublemaker, but teachers saw potential in him and gave him books to read and study projects to do so that far from falling behind, he began to thrive, and graduated elementary school early. This was a double-edged sword; his intellectual interests created a gulf between him and his parents, and because the emphasis in his high school was college entry, and Myers' family was struggling so badly financially that college for him would not be an option. The military, though, was, and Myers memoir glosses over early adult years in the Army and in various blue collar jobs. Finding life intolerable he realized that writing was the only thing that made him happy, and he recommitted his life to it.
Although many of his books are not memoirs in the strictest form of the word, many of Myers' characters and the situations they find themselves in are recognizable in this memoir. For example, his Moondance series chronicles the adventures of two recently adopted children, kids with whom he is easily able to identify. His experience in the Army is used as a reference in his most controversial work, Fallen Angels, the story of young men deployed to Vietnam during the war.
In 1994, Myers was awarded the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association for his contribution in writing for teens. He was also a nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award for lifetime contribution to children's writing. He was also the inaugural winner of the Michael L. Printz Award, the young adult twin of the Newberry Medal. Myers passed away in 2014, at the age of seventy-six.