Review of Dear Martin

Dear Martin
by Nic Stone
High School    Crown    211 pp.    g
10/17    978-1-101-93949-9    $17.99
Library ed.  978-11-101-93950-5    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-1-101-93951-2    $10.99

“I know your kind: punks like you wander the streets of nice neighborhoods searching for prey. Just couldn’t resist the pretty white girl who’d locked her keys in her car, could ya?” So seventeen-year-old Justyce McAllister, who is black, hears after being shoved to the ground by a police officer (“CASTILLO [the officer’s nameplate] reads, though the guy looks like a regular white dude”). Thing is, the girl is mixed-race and is Justyce’s sometime-girlfriend (and drunk), and he was helping her get home. The opening scene is one of several that illustrate Justyce’s feeling that “no matter what I do, the only thing white people will ever see me as is a nig—an ‘n’-word.” Ranked fourth in his class at exclusive Braselton Preparatory Academy, he’s been accepted to Yale, but his classmates assume it’s only because of affirmative action. In his own neighborhood, people criticize him for being a “race-traitor” who’s “gotta stay connected to the white man for the ride to the top.” To sort his life out, Justyce begins writing “Dear Martin” letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Alternating with the main narrative, the letters are an effective device. What would Dr. King think about recent events surrounding Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and the many others who have died and become headlines, the real-life people who inspired this novel? Stone veers away from easy resolutions while allowing hope to reside in unexpected places.

From the November/December 2017 Horn Book Magazine.
Dean Schneider
Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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