Dear Martin caught my eye a while back when I was browsing a Goodreads list of YA novels of 2017 and it immediately had my full attention. Baring a resemblance to one of my favourite books of the year (of course I am referring to the brilliant The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas ), it was a book I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. So, when I got an ARC, I was ecstatic; I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to receive an e-mail in my life.
Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.
Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.
Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.
How can I even begin to describe how important this book is? Stone’s writing is very simple and that’s exactly what her story needed; her dialogues resemble theatrical plays, and there’s no lyrical prose, no extensive description. In my opinion, that’s where her strength as an author lies: with her very simple words and structure she managed to deliver a very powerful, very important message that didn’t need any help from pretty words and elaborate descriptions. The reality she is describing is an ugly one – and trying to depict it in any other way simply wouldn’t have worked.
Justyce honestly has my heart, from now until the end of times. He is brilliant, he is sweet, he is caring, brave, and kind. Honestly, my heart ached for this boy. I was afraid that, precisely because of the importance of the story, the characters would fall a little bit flat – perhaps become even a little bit one-dimensional. I stand corrected; in the span of just 224 pages, Stone managed to fully flesh out a cast of characters that drive the story forward and develop right along with it. They made me laugh, and they made me cry, and they made me angry; and it was a rollercoaster of emotions I will cherish forever.
Even the romance was cute! And when I say cute, I mean chemistry-off-the-roof cute, plus it tackled another issue that we don’t often see depicted in YA literature and that is interracial relationships. I just loved both Justyce and SJ so much, both individually and as a couple, and seeing how supportive they were and how much they cared for each other made me realize that this is another thing we don’t often see in YA literature: supportive, healthy relationships.
Sometimes you just pick up a book and know that it’s going to be a game changer; that it’s going to change literature as we know it for good. My humble opinions and I hope that Dear Martin will do just that: change the lives of readers all over the world and help create a better, more inclusive and more diverse place in literature. Nic Stone opened my eyes a little bit more, made me think a little harder, understand my privilege and the world we live in a little bit better. I am hoping everyone will read this book and enjoy this beautiful story Stone has to offer – the first of the many.
**An ARC was provided via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.**