What a book! I was blown away by the punchiness and shock of this book, which is quite a short read for me at 210 pages. It really goes to show that author Nic Stone knows the best way to write to get a reaction from her readers, and this is proven so well in Dear Martin. Huge thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending me a reading copy!
Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team and set for an Ivy League school – but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Released without charges, he’s frustrated that despite leaving his rough neighbourhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitudes of his new classmates.
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 crossfire.
Dear Martin is an excellent concept for a book. I really enjoy reading books with letter segments in them, so being able to read Justyce’s unfiltered thoughts to Dr. King was an excellent insight to his inner turmoil. Justyce is a bright student, and is well on his way to Yale – he’s passionate about his debate team and wants to try and make a difference in his future, and not go down the darker path well trod by some of the other boys from where he grew up. So when Justyce ends up in handcuffs for helping his drunk girlfriend get home, he begins to question whether there is any point in trying to be different when the cops and his classmates see his skin colour and label him a thug.
The book has an interesting format – sometimes the spoken parts are written in full script format. There are scenes in the Societal Evolution class where it’s just pages of dialogue, which I actually really enjoyed. It was quite easy to get swept along in the class debate when it was just pieces of dialogue with minimal actions to go on. There are characters you can’t help but hate – Blake was horrendously racist the entire book – and characters you loved the entire book. Justyce was a really well written character – he was constantly at war with himself over what was right and wrong, whether he was honouring Dr. King well, and what he could do to change the minds of his peers to just think without prejudice. For a small book, it is powerful and packs a real punch. There were scenes where I gasped out loud, and pages that made me cry. As the book continues, you see Justyce spiral further towards the wrong path, believing in the black boy stereotype American media constantly portrays.
Much like when I read The Hate U Give, Dear Martin provoked many feelings and thoughts for me. Feelings of upset, of hurt, of anger. Thoughts of how for some black men in America, this was real life. Thoughts of how people are having to deal with racial prejudice every single fucking day. Thoughts of how young black men are instantly labelled, despite their home lives, school lives. To one cop, it doesn’t matter who they are. They are instantly deemed a threat because of the colour of their skin. It’s sickening that in 2018 this is still happening. The world is still deeply rooted in hatred. Which is why it is vital for people to read books like Dear Martin.
Final thoughts: Powerful, important, and a definite educational tool. 4.5/5