Updated: Jan 30, 2020
TITLE: Dear Martin
AUTHOR: Nic Stone
PUBLISHER: Crown Books for Young Readers
Justyce McAllister is a boy from around the way who attends a prestigious prep school in suburban Atlanta. The opens with Justyce being accosted by the police as he helps his biracial girlfriend, who is light skinned with green eyes, into a car. The incident shakes Justyce to his core, and inspires him to think deeply about the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and he begins to write letters to the historic figure.
Stone takes police brutality, racial microaggressions, and the heated political climate surrounding the killing of unarmed black men, and faces it head on. There are remarkably poignant moments as well as those that are a bit confusing.
Stone does an excellent job of describing the deeply conflicting messages and landmines that young Justyce faces navigating his two worlds. He is teased by the boys on the block for attending a fancy school yet he is an outsider at the prestigious school. He does have a black friend, Manny - think Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel Air - who talks like he's from the hood but is afraid to socialize with black people. The racism Manny and Justyce face are anything but subtle, but both boys - one from the upper middle class of the black elite, and the other straight from the hood - feel pressure to assimilate in order to fit in. Sarah Jane Friedman, Justyce's Jewish love interest is the star of the book. The girl is perfect. Too perfect. She is extremely well versed in black history and social issues. She literally argues these points better than Manny and Justyce. She is Justyce's debate partner. She picks the topic, does the research, and argues the topic convincingly enough that the pair win the debate championship - all the while Justyce basks in her fine-ness. Justyce and Manny's other white classmates - Jared and Blake are unapologetic racists, which cause a lot of tension throughout the book. A fatal event occurs leaving Justyce to decide if he wants to join a gang reminiscent of the 5 Percenters, or if he wants to continue on the Ivy League track he is on. I won't talk about some of the plot holes...I'm trying to make this as spoiler free as I can, but I have 5 pages of notes filled with questions.