Dear Martin by Nic Stone
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
Nic Stone may write fiction, but she certainly tells no lies! This is a powerful debut novel! The author holds nothing back and the novel offers you the opportunity to see life, through the lies of another, and that person is protagonist Justyce Mcallister!
As a white British woman of 34 years old. It is difficult to imagine the daily life and struggles of a 17-year-old African American teen. When you factor in the racial tensions, constantly bubbling in America and the case after case of police brutality. It becomes quite clear that Justyce and I lead very different lives.
But that is the hidden beauty of this novel, it enables the reader to walk in Justyce’s shoes.
Even if it is for just 200 pages.
The novel opens with Justyce and his ex-girlfriend Melo Taylor, as Justyce attempts to prevent her from drink driving. Melo is of mixed race heritage, but due to her mother’s Norwegian pale skin tone, can easily pass as white. When an officer of the law arrives at the scene, he is promptly judge, jury and executer of his own brand of justice.
Justyce finds himself cuffed, manhandled and treated with zero respect and dignity. But it is only when I read his thoughts as the scene unfounded, that I fully understood life from Justyce’s perspective……………….
Be respectful; keep the anger in check; make sure the police can see your hands.
Justyce is eventually cleared of all wrong-doing, but with no apology, the experience has planted a seed of how Justyce’s feel he is perceived in the world. Do people see a thug when they see him? Does his skin colour automatically, make him a likely criminal? Is he expected to be one of the many cases of young black men shot dead unlawfully?
The self-questioning and doubt lead Justyce to begin a diary to Dr Martin Luther King. It is in these letters entitled ‘Dear Martin’ that Justyce pours out his heart and soul!
The letters are incredibly moving and the writing profound. Justyce is an intelligent young man, but he also has an emotional maturity, that we see develop throughout the novel.
“Dear Martin, there are people that don’t see a man with rights when they look at me”
Justyce begins to explore other people’s attitudes and approaches to debates of race/culture. This includes class mates, teachers, best friend Manny and debate partner SJ (Sarah Jane).
SJ is quite an interesting character herself, a young white Jewish girl. Who is wise beyond her years! SJ has opinions on race/identity/privilege, that could put world leaders to shame!
There is a wide mixture of teens from all walks of life, included within the novel. Which is what makes the novel so great! Nic Stone hasn’t just considered one voice; she has written a magnitude of voices to be heard.
At times the novel made for uncomfortable reading. But so it should, racism is uncomfortable for everybody it makes a victim of. This novel could be an extremely useful tool within educational settings. To allow young adults to debate the themes within the novel and maybe learn a little of their own inner hidden prejudices!
“People often learn more from getting an undeserved free pass than they would from being punished”
I don’t want to review the novel too much and risk ruining this thought-provoking novel. At just 200 pages it is an easy read for young adults. I think the topic of BAME youth in education settings is at crisis point and this novel can shine a light on the how/why this situation developed in the first place.
“If nothing in the world ever changes, what type of man are you gonna be?”
I cannot speak on the race issue, from personal experience. But as a mother of two sons and as a fellow human. I am horrified at seeing young men either growing up way too soon, or being the victims of police brutality and even murder!
A compelling read by a very talented writer, who has a bright future ahead of her! 5*
Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.
You can find her goofing off and/or fangirling over her husband and sons on most social media platforms as @getnicced.