Monday, October 23, 2017

Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Title: Dear Martin
Author: Nic Stone
Year Published: 2017


Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 208
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)USA (GA)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money


Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Justyce McAllister is top of his class at Braselton Prep, captain of the debate team, and set for an Ivy League school next year--but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He's eventually released without charges (oran apology), but the incident rattles him. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can't seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his new classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce's gorgeous--and white-- debate partner he wishes he didn't have a thing for.

Justyce has studied the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do they hold up now? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.

Review: When the encouraging blurbs on the back of the book are from Angie Thomas (The Hate U Give Us), Jason Reynolds (All American Boys), Becky Albertelli (The Upside of Unrequited), and Jeff Zentner (The Serpent King), you know it's going to be a good one. And this one is!

I spent last week at a social justice conference immersed in readings and discussions of race. This book, which I came across by chance at my local independent bookstore yesterday, fit in perfectly with that. I found the story and characters intense, real, and gripping.

Justyce' mom is still living in their old neighborhood, working hard to pay the bills. His old friends still hang out and they've gotten themselves in with a gang that "takes care of them." Justyce is at a boarding school about an hour away, living with privileged students who have no idea what it's like for him when he leaves their hallowed halls. Or what it's like for him inside those halls either. To be surrounded by white privilege was going alright until Justyce is arrested. And race is definitely a factor.

This past week I heard stories from colleagues of color who have stories that I know will never happen to me due to the fact that I am white. This book brings that idea home. As Justyce's friends begin to reveal some of their inner thoughts, Justyce feels he needs to look elsewhere for support.

The chapters alternate between a telling of the story and Justyce's journal entries to Martin Luther King in which Justyce is thoughtful, angry, and questioning the actions of those around him and his own. What is the best way to respond to racism? How can he keep himself calm? How can he explain what it's like for him?

What I like is that all these questions aren't answered. How can they be? There are no correct answers, just a process that I wish we would all work our way through.

Challenges for which this counts:

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