Title: Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Genre: YA, Contemporary/ Realistic Fiction
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.
Dear Martin is a Young Adult contemporary, realistic fiction. A book which is remarkably poignant and one which I think deserves to be on top of numerous best sellers lists beside the likes of Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give.
Dear Martin is 210 pages long, a slightly smaller book than others but it is still packed full of intense plot and narrative. The plot features so much but most important is its focus on Racism and Police Brutality. There are many ways in which Nic Stone depicts Racism in this book and it is so complex and has multiple layers, firstly there is the Racism which Justyce receives from his ‘school mates’ such as Jarrod. This is shown through their backhand comments which they think are fine to make as they hide behind humor, such as their Token Black Guy comments to Manny.
There is also the Racism, Mr. Rivers experiences in his workplace and the systematic racism in the government system which we read through the treatment of Black people vs white people in the prison system, the police brutality and more. There is so much to list but each and every aspect is so important and relevant to today’s society. This book feels less like a work of fiction and more like I’m reading into someone’s life.
One thing which I adored about this book is the form in which Nic Stone presents the story, the narrative includes Justyce writing letters to Martin Luther King in what he calls the Dear Martin Experiment as well as the news reports which featured and gave us updates on the court proceedings. One aspect of this narrative which was unique, was the news report which featured the Halloween picture taken of Justyce, Manny, Jarrod etc. I don’t want to say too much because I want this to be as spoiler free as possible but this moment shows how the media can choose one picture and take everything out of context and change the narrative of an innocent being killed and telling the world ‘they weren’t what they seem.’ Something we know happens in the media today.
Whilst the racism and police brutality and unlawful killing of an unarmed black boy is so poignant in this story and I most definitely don’t want to take away from that what was also interesting about this book was Nic Stone’s incorporation of Privilege. White privilege is introduced into this story through Sarah’s character who I ADORE because she takes no prisoners and calls out Jarod on his white privilege and more. But also what was interesting was the dynamic between Justyce and characters such as Trey who lived in poverty and were in gangs and the privilege they felt Justyce had for being an Honor Student at a good school. Justyce felt like he didn’t fit in and I felt so much empathy for his character throughout these moments, he didn’t feel like he fitted in with Jarrod etc because they called him a Token Black Guy. They told him that his achievements were purely based on filling a quota and he didn’t fit in with those from his home such as the gang members like Trey because they saw him as abandoning his people for the white community.
If all this wasn’t enough, then Nic Stone also incorporates a romance element through Justyce and SJ (Sarah) which is heartwarming and reduces some of the deep tension from the heart wrenching moments of this book. Without the romance elements I surely would have been crying probably all the way through, SJ was just my favourite character beside Justyce of course. She was so strong and she believed in him. The interesting thing about their relationship is also how Justyce’s mum doesn’t like that Sarah is a white girl, therefore there is the inter-racial relationship struggles they go through which again is a poignant topic.
I could write the longest review ever and reveal everything about this book to you but you know me and spoilers don’t go together so in as little words as possible, if you read just a small part of this review then read this bit. Know that Dear Martin features so many important topics from Racism to police brutality. It’s another book adding to the conversation on Black Lives Matter. It is heart warming in places and heart wrenching in others and it is so poignant and could easily be a work of non- fiction. You will not regret picking it up.
Dear Martin was a 5 star read for me. I adored it as much as The Hate u Give by Angie Thomas. This book was easy to get into and hard to put down, I was emotionally invested so fast and this book broke me. The experience of Justyce and Manny was so gut wrenching in places because you know that this is reality for so many people and Nic Stone is unflinching in her betrayal of the experience of the black community and the injustices they face in so many ways. She also incorporates so many common arguments that I’ve heard and experienced, it’s hard to sum up how poignant this book is.
If you liked Dear Martin then I also highly recommend The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I have also got a Spoiler Free Review which can be found here.
Have you read Dear Martin? Let me know your thoughts below or if you have any other recommendations for me like Dear Martin or The Hate U Give!