Thanks to NetGalley and Crown Books for Young Readers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: October 17th, 2017
Synopsis: 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 neighborhood 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.
Dear Martin is the debut novel of Nic Stone, and what a powerful statement it makes! It may technically be a work of fiction, but the social issues it introduces: police brutality, affirmative action, racism, and gang violence are all very real issues that face so many minorities.
The main character, Justyce McAllister is a thoroughly likable and relatable protagonist. Seventeen-years-old, he’s done everything right in his young life. Yet he’s caught between two worlds. Teens that he grew up with resent him for receiving a scholarship to a prestigious prep school, and some of his classmates may espouse to be believers in equality, but their actions speak louder than words. After he’s a victim of racial profiling and police brutality, Justyce begins to realize that while he’s followed all the rules, he’s still judged by some for the color of his skin.
One of the things I loved about this relatively short novel, is the amount of growth and maturity Justyce goes through. When the novel begins, he’s a rather naive young man, who despite coming from a rough neighborhood, has never actually been the victim of racism. After being unfairly targeted himself, his eyes are opened to the injustices in the world, yet he never loses sight of his hopes and dreams, even when another tragic incident occurs.
Even while becoming a victim himself of racial injustice, Justyce has the support of many people including his mother, two close friends and classmates, their parents, and a teacher who has turned into a mentor. They have all helped form him into the incredible person he’s become, and they continue to be there for him during the more difficult times. These themes of love, friendship and support serve to balance the darker ones, and further flesh out the characters and plot.
The only reason why I’m not giving this 5 stars is because there’s some romantic drama which is included, and while I think in a longer book it would have been fine, because of the brevity of the story I found it unnecessary and distracting.
Overall though, Dear Martin is an incredible debut by Nic Stone, and it’s one that should be shared in high school classrooms and book discussion groups. In addition to the powerful The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, this can serve to open a much needed dialogue about inequality and race relations in this country.