Dear Martin – Nic Stone
Genre: YA Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 224
Release Date: October 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—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.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a unique story that explores so many different important topics. The story follows the perspective of a 17 year old black boy, Justyce, who was arrested after he was trying to help his drunk ex-girlfriend get home safely after a party. That incident led Justyce to explore the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to see if they stand the test of time, and he begins to write journal entries to Dr. King to find answers to the questions he has about the world. I like how Dr. MLK was incorporated in this story, I liked that Justyce went out of his way to look into and apply Dr. King’s teachings to his life.

I appreciated the fact that the book follows the perspective of a young black boy as it’s not something that is seen a lot in young adult literature and it gives you a true insight of what it’s like being a black teenager in current day America. I feel like this would be a great book for young black boys to read, as it not only relatable but also because it sends an important message. I also loved the fact the book was very blunt and straight to the point when talking about race, there wasn’t any type of sugar coating, especially when talking about and acknowledging the differences between white and black people.

‘You [referring to Jared, a white classmate] and Manny [a black classmate], who are equal in pretty much every way apart from race, could commit the same crime, but it’s almost guaranteed that he would receive a harsher punishment than you’ (pg. 28)

I also like how the author included the divide that Justyce feels. Justyce attends a, mainly white, private school but his home is in a poorer neighbourhood in Atlanta. He lives in two worlds but feels like he doesn’t really fit in either one of them. When Justyce is at school, he doesn’t feel like he fits in because some of his white peers, specifically his classmate Jared, look down on him and see him as an inferior. When he is at home, the boys in his neighbourhood, Trey and his boys, constantly remind him that “them white folks don’t want yo black ass at they table” and they more or less ridicule him for trying to do well in school/university to create a better life for himself.

‘It’s like I’m trying to climb a mountain, but I’ve got one fool trying to shove me down so I won’t be on his level, and another fool tugging at my leg, trying to pull me to the ground he refuses to leave’ (pg.66)

I liked the discussions that took place during the Societal Evolution classes at Justyce’s school. I thought the conversation between Jared and Sarah Jane, classmates of Justyce, on the topic of racial equality in America was interesting. Being that Jared is a rich white boy, I thought that his view on equality shows how ignorant some people are to the inequality and injustice that black people face in America, because Jared’s mentality was to just pretend that the inequality doesn’t exist.

‘SJ: I know you’d prefer to ignore this stuff because you benefit from it, but walking around pretending equality doesn’t exist won’t make it disappear, Jared.’ (pg.28)

May contain some spoilers, click the arrow to view

I feel like Jared was an important character to have in this book. When he is first introduced to the story, you can tell that he has a close minded, ‘there is no more racial inequality’ view of America. Even though some of his remarks were completely ignorant, I like that they were included because it portrays the mentality and the attitude that some people have in regard to modern society. I also did enjoy Jared’s character development throughout the story, for the most part. I liked that towards the end of the story his views changed, but I feel like it was a very drastic change. He went from believing there isn’t anymore racial inequality in America and turning a blind eye to injustice, to studying civil rights law and African American studies at university. It seemed kind of unrealistic to me. I feel like if the book was longer, then his character, his views and his beliefs could’ve been developed better, at a slower more realistic pace.

The only thing that I didn’t like about this book was the length. It was just over 200 pages and I wish it was longer because there were parts of the story that, in my opinion, could’ve been developed more/had a longer focus on. Overall, I did enjoy this book. I liked the characters, I thought the storyline was unique and even though it was really short, the pacing of the book was good (for the most part) and it covered a lot of important topics. I would recommend reading this book, especially if you liked The Hate U Give.

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