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Dear Martin

Review

Dear Martin

- Click here to read Dylan C.'s review.

Justyce McAllister is at the top of his class at Braselton Prep, a predominantly white school. Although Justyce comes from a rougher neighborhood, he has never had trouble fitting in at Braselton, and even when things get tough, he has his best friend, Manny, by his side.

Nic Stone wastes no time diving into the meat of DEAR MARTIN; in the very first chapter, Justyce is arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and quickly shown the injustices of the law. Justyce is an informed young man and the situation is not unheard of for him, but he is shocked that a straight-A, Yale-bound student like himself could be arrested. After all, he's nothing like the kids he grew up with!

His eyes newly opened to the world around him, Justyce begins to notice the microaggressions occurring around him --- the racist jokes his classmates make and the way they treat people of color. None of them are what one would call openly racist, but it is clear that there is something systemic at work that influences their choices and actions.

"Heartfelt, crisp and informative, Nic Stone's DEAR MARTIN is a truly magnificent and life-changing read."

Struggling to adapt to his new worldview, Justyce begins writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In these letters, he remarks on the similarities between his time period and MLK's, despite the many years that have passed. Poetic and lyrical, these letters are the heart of Stone's story, as they allow Justyce to ask the questions that a young African American male cannot ask out loud, lest he be targeted by others as a protester or rioter.

Although I enjoyed Justyce and his story, the true star of the novel, for me, was Manny, Justyce's best friend. Manny is one of the richest young men in school, but he is also African American, which presents an interesting dichotomy in his personality. He fits in better with his rich classmates than he does with the boys of Justyce's neighborhood, certainly, but he will never truly be "one of them."

Justyce and Manny's differences come to a head when they are out venting their frustrations with some loud music in Manny's car. The two cross paths with an off-duty white cop, shots ring out and one of them ends up dead. Of course, it is not the police officer who is put on trial, but the boys themselves --- were they hoodlums, thugs or teenage boys? Can an African American teen ever really be one or the other in the eyes of the racist media?

Heartfelt, crisp and informative, Nic Stone's DEAR MARTIN is a truly magnificent and life-changing read. With characters that read like real people and situations that ring painfully true, DEAR MARTIN is not only for young African American teens in need of a voice, but for their privileged counterparts, who have much to learn about the world around them. I trust that this book will become a classic in no time and that readers decades from now will read this book and wonder how the world could have turned so dark.

Nic Stone is an astute and careful writer, and I know that we will be seeing much more from her in the years to come.


Review #2 by Dylan C., Teen Board Member:

DEAR MARTIN follows Justyce McAllister, who is at the top of his class at Braselton Prep, and is set to go to Yale next fall. His whole future seems to come to a standing point when a police officer puts him in handcuffs. Even though he’s soon released without any charges, he can’t stop lingering on that very moment. When Justyce goes driving with Manny, his best friend, they come in contact with a off-duty white cop --- where shots are fired, and Justyce is the one who is under attack in the media fallout.

A lot of this book also consists of our main character, Justyce, writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I really did love the parallels between King’s life and Justyce’s life. While everything that happened with King seems like forever ago and like it shouldn’t be happening all of these years in the future, Justyce is writing to him and telling him about all of the similar things that happened in Martin’s time, that are still happening today. But I wasn’t a fan of the format. I’ve never really liked books told in a letter type of format, so I wasn’t able to connect with these portions of the book.

I’m so very disheartened to say that I didn’t love this book. DEAR MARTIN was my most anticipated book of the second half of the year, but unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with it for the life of me. Right from the start, the third person point of view rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read a lot of books in this point of view, but it took me out of the story, which led to me taking almost a week to read a 200 page book, and also it prevented me from connecting with Justyce because I, as a reader, wasn’t in his head.

Another thing about this book that I didn’t like was the dialogue. The dialogue itself wasn’t the problem at all, it was just how it was presented. The dialogue in this book is written in a script format. While this might not bother anyone else, I have never read a book written in this type of format, and so I found myself subconsciously skimming over the dialogue because I honestly just wanted to get it over with.

What I DID like was the story that Nic Stone was trying to tell. Even though this particular story is labeled as fiction, it doesn’t mean that situations like this have never happened in our society today. Stone does a great job of representing the African American community and the trials and tribulations that they go through on a day by day basis.

I realize that to those reading this review, it probably sounds like I hated this book, but I didn’t. It just wasn’t for me. I would still recommend this for fans of THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas, ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky.

Reviewed by Audrey Slater and Dylan C., Teen Board Member on October 16, 2017

Dear Martin
by Nic Stone

  • Publication Date: October 17, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Young Adult 13+
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1101939494
  • ISBN-13: 9781101939499