ARC Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Title: Dear Martin
Author: Nic Stone
Series: N/A
Pages: 224
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 17th 2017
*I received a copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway which does not influence my review*

      “Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.
      Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.
      Then comes the day 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 get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.

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Nic Stone’s Dear Martin is an ardent and poignant story that challenges its readers at every turn. Justyce McAllister has a bright future ahead of him. His life isn’t perfect, but at Braselton Preparatory Academy, it feels like he has the opportunity to become anything he wishes. But to the cop that puts him in handcuffs the night he’s trying to do a good deed, Justyce is just another black kid up to no good. The encounter shakes him to his core.  He begins to reevalutae his own views about the world around him and it becomes nearly impossible for him to ignore the racism he witnesses. Taking pen to paper, Justyce begins writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a way to cope with the growing tension inside him.

For such a small novel, Stone’s debut packs quite the punch. Using different styles of writing, Stone catapults readers into Justyce’s world. In his letters, he is both honest and earnest, and his anger and confusion are palpable. Justyce opens up about becoming the person he wants to be in a world that takes one look at him and decides it already knows everything about him. A few chapters are written like scenes out of a play where the dialogue takes center stage. Stone employs this method most notably during scenes from Justyce’s Societal Evolution class in order to replicate the fast-paced discussions between students in this debate-like setting. Most of Justyce’s classmates are a frustrating bunch to listen to. They throw out racist comments casually without batting an eyelash. Their view of racism in America is a familiar one in which racism isn’t something that happens anymore. Any time they are called out on it, they default to the “you’re being too sensitive” excuses.  They are unable to accept that they themselves could possibly be racist despite people pointing out their remarks are offensive. It’s important to note that Stone chooses a cop with a Latinx name as the one who racially profiles Justyce at the beginning of the novel. So many discussions revolve around race relations between black and white people, but racism as an idea in the U.S. permeates every population. Anti-blackness is very much an issue in the Latinx community and should come under scrutiny.

One of the major themes of the novel is who controls the narrative, how these ideas are internalized, and the consequences of bias narratives. Stone explores these ideas and pushes readers to challenge their own views. Justyce’s story eventually leads to an even more traumatic event in which someone close to him loses their life. In the days that follow, Justyce’s name is dragged through the mud. The story becomes about how the victims somehow deserved what they got instead of how the perpetrator let their own racial biases control their judgment. Dear Martin is uncomfortable, but necessary. It’s a thought-provoking and relevant novel that asks tough questions and demands the reader sit up and pay attention.

5/5

★★★★★

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18 thoughts on “ARC Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

    • You’re reminding me of this excerpt from MLK: “First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

      Liked by 1 person

  1. As I read the synopsis, my chest started squeezing with anxiety. Every turn, things get worse and worse. And that’s just the description! At the risk of sounding pretentious, I read a lot about the black experience in America. I study it. I teach it. So one more book like this might be more painful than I can handle. On the other hand, the unique form sounds interesting. It sounds like the author has matched up the form and content to pack and bigger punch.

    Also, you won a Goodreads giveaway? I thought that never happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is an emotionally trying novel, though I’d argue necessary nonetheless. It’s definitely something to go into with eyes wide open. It isn’t a fluffy read by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve won three Goodreads giveaways in six years and have entered about a thousand it seems, so the odds are never that great.

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  2. I really need to read this but it’s so expensive here in Malaysia! Sigh. I guess I should just wait for the paperback release next year or hope that someone gets it for me for Christmas! Great review, Alicia. Dear Martin reminds me of The Hate U Give which I absolutely loved! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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