I was sent an eARC of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.
Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.
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 that 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.
There’s been quite the buzz around this novel for months now, and it seems to follow in the footsteps of The Hate U Give – a book I unfortunately still haven’t read, but hope to pick up soon. The topic is such an urgent one, considering current events in the US.
“Raw, captivating and undeniably real” really is a great choice of words to describe Dear Martin. This book will crawl under your skin, and the truth of it will make you feel uncomfortable and sad. Because it is. I actually finished this book a day ago because I had to make up my mind before I could write a (semi-)coherent review. This is mainly because the central topic of the book is one that most people would rather not think about. But of course that’s not an option for a lot of people, and that makes it so important to dismiss the initial discomfort and make the effort of reading this book, for example. Justyce was the kind of character you just have to root for throughout the novel, and so was his best friend Manny. I really liked the way one of Manny’s other friends developed throughout the story as his eyes started to open to the injustice around him.
I did have two issues with this book, unfortunately. The first is one that I realize might be there for a reason because it might be a necessity for some people. One of the biggest forms of racism is the unconscious, subtle ways of dividing people based on race. This can be anything, like hurtful remarks and assuming things about someone based on the color of their skin, but also bigger things that aren’t visible for everyone but are embedded in society. This type of racism wasn’t really acknowledged in the book: it mainly (almost only) focusses on the really apert, hateful kind of racism, where people do blackface and dress up in racist outfits, and utter all kinds of racial slurs. I recognize this might be a good way to educate people and open their eyes to the racism around them, but I did miss some nuance here. Secondly, I came across quite a few instances of, both implicit and explicit, misogyny. And I don’t mean from any of the antagonists, but from the protagonists.
Dear Martin is a very important book and I hope it will be a massive success. I would have liked for it to be a little more subtle and more feminist, but it does send a really strong message.