Book Review: Dear Martin
By: Nic Stone
Published By: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 27, 2017
Page Count: 210
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Young Adult - Contemporary
I have been putting this review off in the hopes that I could somehow formulate a review that would do this novel justice. Dear Martin is one of the best contemporaries I have read recently and it focuses on important social issues that are prevalent in our society today. The other reason this novel is so powerful is because it provides insight into a cultural group that is not part of my own experience.
As race relations continue to be a problem in the United States, novels like this one become an important part of the conversation. Justyce, the main character, fights prejudice and discrimination on almost a daily basis at his elite Atlanta boarding school. He is attending school on scholarship, a fact that the rich white kids often remind him of during classes. While Justyce is doing everything he can to break into the Ivy Leagues, his mother is continuing to hold down the fort in a poor section of the city that is littered with crime and gangs. As Justyce navigates the two social currents of his life, he feels like he will never be accepted by the elite and he will never be accepted in his neighborhood because he is working so hard to break the cycle of poverty.
Justyce's life takes another turn when he has a run in with a police officer who assumes that he is doing something wrong simply because he is a young black male. This experience forces him to reflect on his life and his goals for the future. To deal with his frustrations, Justyce starts a journal where he writes letters to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He sees this as a therapeutic exercise that will also help him focus on making positive change. In addition to writing to Dr. King, Justyce finds comfort with his two friends, Manny and SJ. These two provide a refuge when the walls of society begin to push in on Justyce.
Manny is also in some ways the opposite of Justyce. He has always had a privileged life. In spite of being one of the few black students at the school, Manny has an easier time of things due to his bank account and the fact that he often goes along with whatever his white friends want. There are some pretty offensive moments in this novel and Manny's reaction to some of them made me cringe, but eventually his eyes are opened to how wrong the others are acting.
One of my favorite aspects of this novel was the relationship between Justyce and SJ. I love how they support and challenge one another. They aren't afraid to call each other out when its warranted. It was also nice to see such a strong and intelligent female character.
Dear Martin is an eye opening read that is still holding onto my mind. The commentary on social injustice, race relations in the U.S., and racism is relevant. This is a novel you cannot simply read; it's one you immediately want to discuss with others around you.
I'm still not sure that this review is truly enough for this novel. Suffice it to say that this one is a favorite.
One Last Gripe: I wish this had been longer.
Favorite Thing About This Book: I liked the interesting narrative style.
First Sentence: From where he's standing across the street, Justyce can see her: Melo Taylor, ex-girlfriend, slumped over beside her Benz on the damp concrete of the FarmFresh parking lot.
Favorite Character: Justyce
Least Favorite Character: Jared
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.