"The Beast" by Walter Dean Myers is the story of Anthony "Spoon" Witherspoon, a black teenager who returns to his home in Harlem after spending 4 months at an idyllic, rural and largely white boarding school in New England. Upon his return, he discovers that many of his friends' lives have changed for the worse. One has dropped out of school, another has joined a street gang and yet others have become addicted to drugs.
One of these drug addicts is his girlfriend Gabi, whom he promised to remain faithful to in his absence. The "Beast" of the novel's title is described as the negativity and destruction that preys on young people, personified as "half human, half bull" and "waiting for the youth upon which it would feed."
As a result of the changes that have occurred within his old neighborhood, Spoon becomes uncertain about his identity and where to call home. He is also unsure about what the future will hold for him. Illustrating this confusion, the privileged and luxurious life in New England, where he met a beautiful girl called Chantelle, is juxtaposed with the squalor of a drug den in Harlem, where he desperately tries to save Gabi from an overdose.