Where do I even start with this book?
First of all, I cried like a baby on the tube while reading this and have absolutely no shame in admitting it. This is one of those books where you know exactly what you’re getting but it still gets you.
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 neighbourhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.
‘Painfully timely and deeply moving, this is the novel the next generation should be reading.’ Jodi Picoult
‘Justyce’s story is earnest, funny, achingly human, and unshakably hopeful. I am forever changed.’ Becky Albertalli
YA literature is kicking up a storm with incredible and diverse new literature and Nic Stone’s debut is one of 2018’s big hitters. Drawing on modern society and its treatment of minorities in the US, Dear Martin uses the voices of different demographics of teens and their families to debate the understanding of racism and discrimination.
In the scenes taking place in Justyce McAllister’s classes, we see discussions amongst prep school teenagers regarding racism, positive and negative discrimination, and the levels of privilege influencing different opinions. There are moments of cringing, agreement, and sheer astonishment at some of the things that the characters say. Ignorance is closely tied to white privilege, and racism is spun in order to suit the opinions of different voices. I found it amazing how Stone created so many different aspects of justification for things that should be so obviously wrong.
The question of privilege, of understanding the depth and devastation of something never experienced by certain types of people exposes that inherent fear in communities. It’s easier for people to justify discrimination and seek validation for their actions than to face the possibility that they’re doing something wrong or cruel. It’s easier for someone to be ignorant than guilty. It’s such a prevalent issue in our society and Stone presents it so fantastically through the discussions of teenagers. Ignorance is a hard thing to overcome, but these kids could teach you a lot of important lessons.
When Justyce is arrested it changes everything. He’s a prep school scholarship kid looking ahead at his future at an Ivy League college, but he’s still a black teenager living in America at a time when black teenagers are being wrongfully arrested and murdered and criminalised. He starts writing letters to Martin Luther King Jr in an attempt to grasp some understanding of modern society’s treatment of minorities, and better comprehend his place in it all. Considering the length of the book, I’m impressed by the stability of Stone’s narrative. There are so many events that occur, and the different parts of society represented surrounding those events are explored in so much depth in a short amount of pages, but the book is so detailed and effective in its considerations. I couldn’t fault it.
The relationships between the white/black/rich/poor characters in this book are so telling, so accurate. Not only does Stone present the relationship between white privilege and racial discrimination, but she breaks down the societal class disruption too, highlighting an astounding separation between the upper and lower classes of white and black characters. She shows how the deeply-set attitudes in different demographics of society cause these incidents to occur over and over and over again. It’s about everyone that is marginalised and their opinions on either side of that privilege. It’s about the opinion of the privileged and their reluctance to accept the discrimination of a society because of what it means for them. It’s the comparison of fear and shame and horror in all demographics.
It’s a fantastic reflection of our society and the absence of equality. It’s time for people to stop denying it. Everything that unfolds for Justyce is a consequence to our attitudes and behaviours. It’s our – as in all of us who live on this planet – responsibility to recognise disparity amongst us in order to effect change. It shouldn’t take a book to make people realise that our society is this fucked up, but if I had to choose one that could, it’s Nic Stone’s Dear Martin.
Dear Martin is out on the 3rd of May this year!