In honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the book review being featured today is Dear Martin by Nic Stone.
Justyce is smart. He aces every test he takes, he works hard, and is a complete shoo-in for every college he applies to. Justyce is good looking, 17, and the world should be his personal oyster. There’s just one, little, complication—he’s a Black boy attending an elite White school, and some don’t want to see him succeed. After a horrible run-in with police officers who attack Justyce, he begins to wonder if the world really is so different from when Martin Luther King Jr. was alive and protesting. In secret, Justyce begins to write letters to his hero, MLK, in a journal.
Justyce certainly has other problems: his ex girlfriend, Mel, seems to only want to bring him down, he’s developing feelings for someone that might never love him back, and his life is still in danger. This book was awesome because it was like listening to a series of conversations. There wasn’t a whole lot of description or writing that wasn’t dialogue, so you really get to know these characters in a unique way. The book’s author totally captures just what it’s like to be a Black kid—the good and the bad.
It was hard reading the scenes of racism and violence. Honestly, it made me think so much about the horrible experiences I had with racism growing up Black in a mostly-White suburb. So while I hated that Justyce had to go through what so many Black kids experience with racism and prejudice, it made him relatable. I was able to see myself in his character and I really came to connect with him. This all being said, Dear Martin is absolutely NOT a happy book. It isn’t a book you can cozy up with by the fire or to enjoy in a bathtub. It’s heavy, emotional, but totally inspires you to think. Racism is everywhere, so what kind of person do you want to be? Are you going to let people’s stereotypes of Black Americans keep you from listening to rap? I’ll be honest, for many years, I was scared to listen to hip-hop or to admit that I loved fried chicken because I felt I was conforming to a stereotype. It took FOREVER for me to realize that people will stereotype me regardless of what I wear, how I talk, or who I fall in love with. The best thing to do is to be yourself. Love who you want. Speak how you’d like to speak. Wear your hair in braids and eat all of the chicken in the world if that’s what makes you happy. Never let your fear of being seen negatively keep you from living the life you’d like to lead—and that’s much easier said than done. I know that. I know it’ll take time, and we aren’t given much time on this Earth so you may as well use it wisely. Be happy.
Dear Martin isn’t a perfect book but it is incredible, powerful, and completely honest. It made me cry, laugh, and think.
*Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
By Jesse E
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