Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for a bright future – but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighbourhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.
Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr King to find out.
Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up – way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.
Riveting and revealing, New York Times bestselling author NIC STONE boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.
Dear Martin is a Young Adult piece of fiction, as such it is a highly accessible read, tackling some very current and serious issues, namely racism. Justyce is black, he attends a private school, educationally a high achiever and on course to attend Yale. Within school he is in the minority due to his skin colour, within his home community he is in the minority because of his perceived elevated educational status.
The story is sadly all too familiar with repeated occurings of racism impacting on Justyce, from a brutal arrest due to no wrong doing, culminating in the shooting, both events directly attributable to the skin colour of Justyce. Seeking out Martin Luther King for guidance, Justyce quickly becomes disillusioned as he realises that he cannot escape racism and those he thought might have done have simply learnt to ignore frequent acts of discrimination. We quickly see the potential slide into criminal activity as an alternative and the story is depressing in its stark telling.
Justyce is a likeable character and I empathised with his despondency as he encounters racism on all levels – institutional and systemic as well as in his interpersonal relationships, being dismissed as over sensitive instead of validated when attempting to raise awareness.
This was a very quick read at just over 200 pages, the characters were relatable in this college drama and the author highlighted and explored the experience of racism in a way that I think is helpful and thought provoking for the reader. In SJ the author created a strong advocate for equality, a fierce debater she was able to articulately challenge the views of her white peers when advocating for Justyce in their debating class. Characters such as Manny and Jaden offered a range of perspectives with Manny an affluent black child he was largely able to ignore subtle racist references, having grown up with his white, privileged friends. Jaden denied racism existed and used Manny as an example of this – with hard work anyone could achieve. His position was challenged through this book and I liked his story.
An important and current book which I will now be passing to my 16 year old son to read – I am hoping he will, and I will also be recommending elsewhere. A black voices novel which I would like to see being read in schools, frank and thought provoking this could helpfully generate open discussion to aid understanding of racism.
A sequel Dear Justyce has just recently been published which I am now very keen to read.
About the Author
Nic Stone is an Atlanta native and a Spelman College graduate. After working extensively in teen mentoring and living in Israel for several years, she returned to the United States to write full time. Nic’s first novel, Dear Martin, is a New York times bestseller and a William C Morris Award finalist. Loosely based on a series of true events involving the shooting deaths of unarmed African American teenagers, the title earned a starred review from Booklist, which called it ‘vivid and powerful.’ Nic’s second book, Odd One Out, is the one she wishes she’d had back when she was trying to figure out it’s okay to love. Her latest novel, Jackpot, explores class, privilege, and how a stroke of good luck can change an entire life. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons.