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.
Trigger Warnings: Racism, Sexism/Misogyny, Violence, & Police Brutality
Honestly, how do I even begin to write a review for an excellent book such as this?
A brilliantly written book that is not only incredibly powerful and packs a lot of punch in just 210 pages. I can already tell that “Dear Martin” and “The Hate U Give” are going to be compared and let me just tell you: read them both. They are both excellent and both deserve to be read as they handle important issues like police brutality and racism.
Of course I’d just like to say that I, being a white woman, can’t even begin to fully understand the issues described in this book nor can I fully give my opinion on them because of that. However, I do think this book is very important and I urge you all to give it a read. That being said you should definitely check out some #OwnVoices reviews of this book and if you know of any please feel free to link them below!
Right off the bat I’d like to say that it was great to be reading from Justyce’s POV, he’s just a great character but it was also nice to read from not only a male POV but also a POC POV in YA. I also really enjoyed the sections of the story in which Justyce wrote his letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. they added so much insight into not only his character but the issues that African Americans endure every day.
While this book focuses a lot on police brutality it also focuses a lot on racism micro-agressions as well. For example throughout the course of the story Justyce is faced with white male peers constantly making racist jokes and telling him to “quit being so sensitive” about them at the same time. Many of the side characters act atrociously in this perspective throughout the story too. I will say that one of the characters makes a bit of a turn around by the end of the story, which was nice to see.
One other thing that I mentioned in the trigger warnings was sexism and misogyny which we do see a bit of in this story and while it’s challenged I don’t think it was challenged enough. At one point during the story Justyce’s best friend, Manny, states that he isn’t interested in black girls because they’re “ghetto and full of attitude” and Justyce doesn’t want to date the girl he’s interested in because she’s white and his mother would not approve.
Aside from the plot the pacing is very fast and the writing is excellent, it’s easy to breeze through this one! I’ll also be looking forward to anything Nic Stone will be writing in the future as well!
Also my only real complaint is that it wasn’t longer!
I really enjoyed Justyce’s character as well as his friend Manny, his love interest SJ, and their debate teacher whom they refer to as Doc. I thought they were all great characters and good people on top of that. I have to say though SJ, honestly, was my favorite I loved how fiesty and intelligent she was every time she would speak up about the racist and unintelligent remarks made by some of their classmates. I wish there would have been more development for a lot of the characters but with such a short novel that can’t really be helped.
As for some of the other characters such as Justyce’s peers, whom I don’t remember all of their names because they were horrible people, I loathed them. They were so blatantly ignorant and racist it was ridiculous and got to the point where I thought to myself “Do people actually talk this way?!” to which the answer is yes there are horrible people out there that do talk, think, and act like the people in this story.
There was a bit of romance in “Dear Martin” and sometimes I felt it became too much of a focus in the plot and a little….overly dramatic. There’s a love triangle between Justyce, his on again, off again girlfriend Melo, and his friend SJ. Melo is clearly not a great girlfriend and manipulates Justyce whereas SJ is clearly perfect for him, so of course I spent the entire book rooting for Justyce x SJ! I really loved their relationship. So overall I did like the romance but like I said it got to be a little “too much” at times.
Overall thoughts: a fantastic book that my review simply cannot do justice (pun, unintentional!).
What I Loved:
- Excellent writing
- Fantastic characters
- Important plot
- Justyce’s romance with SJ
What I Didn’t Love:
- Romantic sub plot got a little overwhelming and trope-y at times
- Would have loved to have seen some of the sexism challenged more
I cannot recommend “Dear Martin” enough, it is an extremely important and powerful novel. I also recommend checking out “The Hate U Give” as well if you have already read this one and loved it!