Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Digital Audiobook narrated by Dion Graham
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on October 17, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 210 pages or 4 hours, 32 minutes
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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.
Dear Martin was an incredibly difficult book to read.
It’s a really short book, just over 200 pages, and every sentence is jam packed with reality. Honestly? It’s difficult to stomach. It’s supposed to be. Dear Martin is a book that makes you cringe because just about everyone in this book is racist. And before I go too deep here, I’m going to step back and say that I am a white girl living in Massachusetts and I have no idea the struggles young black man go through, especially in the American South. I am super privileged and I stand back and acknowledge that, and I’m grateful for it. I cannot imagine the daily trials from someone like Justyce.
Dear Martin tries to show some of those trials, so when you read this book… be prepared to be uncomfortable. It’s difficult to read. There are very few subtle acts of racism in this novel. From a classmate dressing up as a KKK member for Halloween to racially-charged murder, the events in Dear Martin may feel outrageous… but for some… for two many… this is just daily life. I’m grateful not to have witnessed anything like this myself, but a.) I am not a young black man; and b.) I don’t live in Georgia or one of the Southern States, which have always been more racially heated. After some of the news stories I’ve watched in the last two and a half years… I am becoming disillusioned about about the possibility of these things.
So that’s the content of Dear Martin, in a nutshell. Justyce is a young man just trying to be himself and live his life. In the first few pages,we see a young man trying to help his drunk friend get home safely turn quickly into a scene of racial profiling and wrongful arrest. This book is a good fit for those who enjoyed The Hate U Give and wanted to learn more. I don’t think anyone is going to pick up Dear Martin expecting a feel good book. When I reached the halfway point, I made a list of all the difficult topics I’d encountered so far. Here’s the list:
- “Needing” a white savior
- substance abuse
- !! RACISM !! (<- from all sides)
- domestic abuse
- interracial relationships and prejudice against them
- police brutality
- black face
- racial stereotypes
- historical/racial insensitivity
- racial profiling
- inequality in the workplace/classroom
- resent over diversity hires/college acceptances
- embodiment of racial hate symbols
This is in no particular order, and varies in severity (some of it is just a mention). If I haven’t already emphasized enough how many hard hitting topics there are in Dear Martin, let that be a sneak peek of the first 100 pages.
I thought this book was very powerful. To be honest, though? After a little while… I felt numb. And I think that can be a good thing. Dear Martin went in to unapologetically slam all these topics on the reader to wake them up, but it’s not a book that will delve deeply to flesh out a single incident. This is just a snapshot of Justyce’s daily life, and it’s up to the reader to dig for more information and become a better person after the book is over. I think that as a novel, The Hate U Give was more successful because of how Angie Thomas helped the reader into the story and focused really hard on a handful of racist incidents and tragedies. Reading Dear Martin, you walk out shell shocked. But I think that’s what Nic Stone set out to do… so well done.
And, I’ve got to be honest – it’s impossible not to compare the two. They came out at a similar time and covered very similar topics. From a flatly technical point of view, I think THUG was a better put together novel, but that shouldn’t lessen the message Dear Martin is trying to put across. I thought the characters here could have been rounded out a little better, and the plot could have stopped to breathe if this had another 100 pages, just so the readers could catch up. But it was a very successful novel in personal impact and I think everyone should read it.
Have you read both The Hate U Give and Dear Martin? Did one book speak to you more than the other, or were you floored by both? Can you recommend any other similar books to me (by different authors)? Lemme know in the comments!