Title: Dear Martin
Author: Nic Stone
Expected Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Rating: ★★★★★/ 5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary YA
Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.
Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.
Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.
Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In that media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.
I received an electronic advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
Trigger warning: racism and violence.
Can you explain why everywhere I turn, I run into people who wanna keep me down?
I was over the moon when I got approved to read the eARC for Dear Martin because it was one of those books I really wanted to get because of its promising story-line. I believe very much that non-black teens of today, especially ones in the U.S. need books like Dear Martin that allow them the look into the lives of African American kids and how institutional racism affects every facet of their lives. As well as for black teenagers to see themselves represented in media. I’m so happy that the cover wasn’t obscure and depicted Justyce perfectly. I also love the coloring of red around his body on this cover’s version.
I first had trouble getting into the book because of the simple style of the writing but the more I read of Justyce’s point of view and his letters to Dr. King (AKA Martin), the more he grew on me. He’s essentially a teen who’s living somewhat of a dual life. On one hand, he goes to a prestigious school while on the other hand he’s from a bad area infamous for its criminal activities that included gangs and such.
As you can read from the blurb, Justyce’s life is changed overnight because of an incident that prompts him to start a social experiment to be more like Martin and by writing very raw and personal letters to Dr. King. I really liked how Justyce’s voice came out in the letters as well as in the chapters, which were written in third person and focused on Justyce.
He went through the regular tribulations associated with the life of a student who’s graduating: school and romance, until he’s reminded very nastily of how society (both white and black) forced him into a box. Justyce went through a very nice character development in which he dealt with the expectations of both white and black characters very much involved in his life. I found that the pacing worked very nicely as it went over a year of Justyce’s life. I found myself crying at times because the circumstances he encountered felt so unfair and frustrating. I truly grew protective of him and the cast of the book.
This book focuses quite a bit on Justyce but not without developing very interesting minor characters such as friends like Sarah-Jane (referred to as SJ), Manny, teachers and definitely parents like his own mom, Manny’s parents and SJ’s parents.
As you can glean from the cover, Justyce is black, there’s also a Jewish character as well as a biracial character in mention among the diverse cast. The diversity isn’t restricted to race but also in social class and talks a good deal about poverty and the power some characters had because of their wealth. I really appreciated when the topic of prejudice came up, the book explored prejudices within the black community as well as include prejudices against other minorities like Jews.
I felt like there was a great support system for Justyce but that still was not enough, he had to be his own support system and I truly loved that aspect of his coming-of-age journey. Plus: there is cute romance and it’s always nice to read how a teenage boy feels like when he likes someone so there’s that too.
There was some instance where there was some slut-shaming of a certain girl and I didn’t like that one bit.
Overall, very important book with an interesting method of writing that I believe is important. It was both poetic in its brevity as well as informative and to the point. It’d be great to see this turned into a movie or an original series. We need media like this book to educate and keep the kids as aware as possible that there are kids like them who succeed like Justyce does. I totally recommend this book!
About the Author
Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.