Sunday, 18 March 2018

Dear Martin

Author: Nic Stone
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 224
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
First Published: October 17, 2017
First Line: "From where he's standing across the street, Justyce can see her: Melo Taylor, ex-girlfriend, slumped over beside her Benz on the damp concrete of the FarmFresh parking lot."

Book Description from GoodReadsRaw, 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 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.

My Rating: 4.5 stars

My Review: This book slipped under my radar but thankfully, after gushing to a publishing rep about The Hate U Give at a the Ontario Library Conference in January, she suggested I read Dear MartinSo, did I like this book?

I liked it a lot --I read it in one sitting. 

Dear Martin is about Justyce McAllister, a Black teen who witnesses his friend, Manny, get gunned down by an off-duty police officer. Justyce writes letters to Martin Luther King Jr  to vent his frustration and gain inspiration from his hero. The epistolary format gave me pause because it's not my favourite format, but the letters are used sporadically, like diary entries, and help the reader getting into Justyce's mindset. 

Fans of The Hate U Give will see definite similarities in themes - racial profiling, discrimination, police brutality and the influence of small, casual racial comments that sometimes end in blaming the person of colour of being 'too sensitive'. But Dear Martin brings its own unique voice to these issues particularly because Justyce, as a Black male teen, gives his take of the issues.

These issues range from the sense of defeat by some people in the Black community (What's the point of fighting for equality when nothing ever seems to change?), the struggle to be seen as more than skin colour by the outside world and the temptation of joining a gang to gain the feeling of connection and safety. Dear Martin also raises the important topic of 'toxic masculinity’ - that in order to show strength, young men must limit their emotional responses to anger and aggression. 

My only negative about this book is that I wish that there had been more time for character development. While Justyce is a sweet character, I didn't feel as connected to him as I would have liked. I also felt the secondary characters could have used more depth since some felt a little one-dimensional.

Overall, Dear Martin is a powerful read that packs a lot of emotion and big topics into its pages making it an excellent selection for book clubs or middle-school/high school reading lists. THUG and Dear Martin both encourage readers to talk about prejudice and give a sense of hope that there can be change. I encourage everyone to read both.

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