Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Copyright Date: 2017
Reading Age: 14-17
Reading Level: Grades 9-12
Awards: William C. Morris Debut YA Award
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Justyce McAllister is an honor student navigating Atlanta, Georgia as a Black teen. While trying to get his drunken ex-girlfriend home safely, he is beaten by a police officer and arrested. Being a good friend shouldn't mean police brutality, but it is just one of the ways Justyce experiences living while Black. One day, he and a friend are driving down the street, windows down, music up, when an off-duty officer decides they're trouble. Shots are fired. Blame is laid. Now Justyce is under attack. Dear Martin and its sequel, Dear Justyce are quick, compelling reads filled with snappy dialog and letters/journal entries.
Dear Martin is about a Black teen who does not fit the stereotype fed to us from the American media. Justyce McAllister is an honor student. He gets along with all his teachers and is set for an Ivy League education. He believes in always doing the right thing and writes journal entries addressed to Martin Luther King, Jr. that explore his thoughts on choosing the right path. However, the results of Living While Black catch up with Justyce one night when he's wearing a borrowed hoodie, trying to get his drunken ex-girlfriend home safely, preventing her from drinking and driving or being taken advantage of by a predator. Instead, a prejudiced police officer sees Justyce as the predator, beating him when he sees Justyce settling his ex in the backseat of her car. That incident is not the last time Justyce will be on the wrong side of an officer. One night while driving with his friend down the street, an off-duty officer decides to do something about the teens he sees as troublemakers, and shots are fired. This is an exploration of how a good kid can easily be caught up in the deadly consequences of racism as well as the judgement cast by those in the media and those consuming it. It also explores the all the micro aggressions Black people experience on a regular basis.
Justyce McAllister is driven and bright, at the top of his class. He also believes in doing the right thing, which when you are a Black male in Atlanta, can be a risky endeavor.
About the Author
Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.
You can find her goofing off and/or fangirling over her adorable little family on most social media platforms. (About the author and photo can be found here.)
Justyce writes letters to Martin Luther King, Jr. Compose a letter as part of your booktalk.
Discuss whether or not you would continue to do the right thing if you knew it could cost you your freedom? What about your life?
Challenge issues: violence, police brutality, underage drinking, drug use, strong language
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Compelling and discussing racial profiling and police brutality, this is a book that describes the contemporary issues of being Black in the United States in a format that is approachable to all readers.