Synopsis: 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 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.
Review: Dear Martin is one of those books that had a lot of hype surrounding it when the book came out. Thankfully, this book delivered on the hype. It's short, but it packs quite a punch. At the start of the story, Justyce has an encounter with the police and ends up in custody. This inspires him to write letters to Martin Luther King Jr as a way of coming to terms with the world around him. I loved Jus as a character and I found him to be one of the most realistic characters I've read this year. He wants to be like MLK, but he isn't ignorant to the fact that the world is against him. He often questions his ability to follow Dr. King's footsteps and he ends up making some not great choices. I also really enjoyed Manny. I liked having Justyce and Manny's different viewpoints on how white people act. Manny laughs along as his white friends make inappropriate jokes, but Jus is there to question that behavior. It would be great to discuss this with teenagers and why jokes like that are not okay.
As for the story, it got dark quite fast. I'm not just saying that because the book is short. You get a taste of two different environments within this book. Justyce's old neighborhood, and the school he goes to. Both places feel distinct and real. Justyce's narration and his letter entries to MLK were balanced masterfully. I won't go into detail, but I appreciated the connection between the officers involved in Justyce's incident at the start of the book, and the incident involving Justyce and Manny later. Another thing I appreciated was how Justyce's relationships were handled. There were two girls who caught Manny's eye in Dear Martin, Melo and SJ. Melo was a part of his past, something Justyce feared he would never escape. SJ represented a hopeful future where Jus could be more than what was expected of him. They both helped Justyce learn more about himself and where he wants to go in life. The only criticism I have, is I wish there was more of a correlation between Justyce's life and MLK's teachings. Everyone knows Dr. King was a speaker of peace and equality, but it would have been nice to see some of his texts in Dear Martin. I think it would have made for a really nice bridge between Martin's teachings and Justyce's life.
Dear Martin touches on a variety of topics, grief, racism, love, and living just to name a few. It's a spectacular book that is definitely worth reading.