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YA Review: Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

Title: Dear Justyce

Author: Nic Stone

Year Published: 2020

Category: YA fiction (short stories
Pages: 288
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2020 Google Reading map)USA (GA)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): In the highly anticipated sequel to her New York Times bestseller, Nic Stone delivers an unflinching look into the flawed practices and silenced voices in the American juvenile justice system.

Vernell LaQuan Banks and Justyce McAllister grew up a block apart in the Southwest Atlanta neighborhood of Wynwood Heights. Years later, though, Justyce walks the illustrious halls of Yale University . . . and Quan sits behind bars at the Fulton Regional Youth Detention Center.

Through a series of flashbacks, vignettes, and letters to Justyce--the protagonist of Dear Martin--Quan's story takes form. Troubles at home and misunderstandings at school give rise to police encounters and tough decisions. But then there's a dead cop and a weapon with Quan's prints on it. What leads a bright kid down a road to a murder charge? Not even Quan is sure.
Review: When I read Dear Martin a few years ago, I was super impressed, which means when I saw this book was coming out, I made sure to get a copy. Justyce is a character from Dear Martin that Stone uses as the receiver of letters from Quan who is serving time. With this book, Stone wanted to connect to readers that felt a bit left out in Dear Martin because Justyce was such a successful, college-bound black man.

Stone captures her characters so well, their words, their emotions, their inner-most thoughts. I like that her characters show emotion and vulnerability even when they are breaking the law, being tough, or putting on a front. The bonds of friendship are strong with her characters, even when the friendships aren't healthy. While Quan's family is only peripheral in this novel, we see their impact on Quan, his decisions, and his time in detention.

And the portrayal of Quan's time in juvenile detention is well done. We get a sense of his frustration, loneliness, anger, fear, and dread through his letters to Justyce as well as his time with his tutor and counselor. In her after word, Stone talks about the research she did for this novel and how, really, this book is sort of a work of fiction since it's based on the many stories heard and people she met in various Georgia youth facilities. 

The school to prison pipeline is real and this novel shows how it works. Well done!

Challenges for which this counts: 

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