Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Release Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: BEA 2017 Galley
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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 the 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.
Releasing just in time for the new school season, Dear Martin follows Justyce McAllister whose life is turned upside down after the police shooting death of his best friend. This is a super engrossing and quick day read that I highly recommend if you’re already interested in checking it out.
My favorite elements of this book are the relationship dynamics. From best friends, Justyce and Manny, Justyce and Manny’s friends (Jared is the douche of the pack and he’s so extra about it, which brings for some really great tension), Justyce and Manny’s parents, Justyce and his love interest, SJ, Justyce and SJ’s parents, to Justyce and his mother.
There is so much complexity and weight and so many different sets of expectations in each and every relationship here and it really brings this story to life as we get to see how everyone reacts to the police shooting, in which a white officer shoots at an innocent minority student. There is so much explored here in such a short matter of time when it comes to systematic racism in the justice system, the police protecting and serving their own interests, and resistance meaning existence for minorities. And let’s not forget the whiplash transition period of going from an all white environment to an all black environment
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged the status quo and helped bring about positive change and watching Justyce try to understand as best he can (through letters that he writes to King) how King went about that and how to apply that to his own situation is heart wrenching…because especially as minorities, we know this is NOT easy. Not easy as a child or adult.
It continuously becomes even more clear how much the odds are stacked against you. And more often than not, it is very debatable if in the end, being the bigger person in situations like this is worth it (in a sense, how little trauma can I as the minority get out of this lose-lose situation), so seeing that explored too was refreshing as well. And I can imagine for many readers it’s like nothing they will have read before which is great because this will make so many readers think about life beyond their four walls.
SJ is there for Justyce through it all but Justyce’s mother isn’t on board with even the idea of dating outside one’s race. As disturbing as this mentality is, seeing this explored in a book through the lens of a minority rather than the majority was exciting to see since it was a different lens that many readers may not have read before and need to read.
All of this to say, Dear Martin is a solid introduction to the discussion on racism and police brutality and the trauma that comes with it. The book was a little too fast paced for me in that I wish the book were twice as long and took more time to dive into everything it tackles. But if you’re looking to get this into the hands of a teenager who doesn’t read a lot, this book length might be absolutely perfect. So definitely read this and pass it on, especially during such relevant times, this one is not to be missed.