Justyce is ivy league bound and the top of his class, but none of that mattered to the cop who illegally arrests him for helping his drunk ex. This trauma is only the tipping point for Justyce, who asks the question, “What would Dr. King do?” attitude in times of stress. Throughout the novel, Justyce has to work through the microaggression experiences at school while also communicating with his best friend Manny, who prefers to ignore them rather than confront them.
However, when Manny and Justyce decide to drive around and listen to music, they upset on off duty cop who only sees them as thugs and shoots them.
is one of those books that should be required reading in High School as it is more impactful and meaningful for today’s youth than To Kill a Mockingbird.
When I first saw this book on Instagram, I thought Dear Martin was a letter to Trayvon Martin, not the civil rights leader. Now that I’ve read this novel, I think the title is intentional. The implication is both sad, but it hints at the police brutality theme of this book. Additionally, Justyce is the same age as Trayvon when he was murdered, and both are victims of injustice.
That aside, I know some people might be taken out of the story by the way Stone jumps from formats. The book is written in the third person limited and jumps to scripted dialogue to letters to Dr. King. However, I don’t think that should put off readers from reading this rather, pay attention during these shifts in format. For example, when Justyce’s POV jumps to scripted dialogue, it is there to emphasize that he is outside of the conversation that is happening before him. Most of these conversations take place when Jared and SJ are speaking, and she implores Jared to see past his bias and privilege. In my opinion, this emphasizes that anti-racist and systemic racism discussions should begin within your circle, as BIPOC people are exhausted from screaming these things for the past 400 years. And when they do the hostility and denial that those like Jared invoke is exhausting.
But don’t toss this book aside because the format isn’t typical.
Now let’s talk about the plot or more about the characters.
Justyce is a great narrator, and his unlawful arrest at the beginning of this book continues to haunt until his graduation, of course, he is also haunted again by the police shooting he experiences in the middle of this novel. Justyce has to relieve that trauma during the trial and sit there while the defense lawyer attacks his character and Manny’s. I won’t spoil it, but it’s some BS, and I wish Justyce finds some peace and happiness in the future.
Furthermore, SJ, Justyce’s debate partner, is one of the few white characters in this book who understands her privilege and wields it to enact change. She rocks for that, but so do her parents for raising her to understand her privilege. Although Justyce’s mom doesn’t approve of SJ because of the very privilege she has, I think if given the chance SJ could win her over.
Jared and his friends are fools. All the times they spoke about Black people pulling the race card, I wanted to exit out of this book and take a minute to chill. Especially during the Halloween party, it was disgusting, but I know a lot of young people still think dressing up as they did was okay. However, I’m glad to at least see Jared change his ways.
Lastly, I didn’t expect Manny’s character to grow on me. Manny is biracial and as much as he tries to avoid racial issues and turn a blind eye to Jared and friends he’s unaware that he is also a victim of microaggressions. This is frustrating to read about it as there are many BIPOC who think racism ended with the civil rights movement and that the Black Lives Matter movement should be on All Lives Matter movement. In essence they miss the point. However, when Manny finally realizes he can no longer ignore these issues, it’s too late. [Spoiler] I loved reading about Manny’s growth and I was sad to lose him during the aftermath of the shooting.
Anyways, read Dear Martin and other books like it that deal with these issues, but don’t forget to also read other books by Black authors in your favorite genres.
Until next time,