"Raw and gripping." –JASON REYNOLDS, New York Times bestselling coauthor of All American Boys
"A must-read!” –ANGIE THOMAS, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give
Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning New York Times bestselling debut, a William C. Morris Award Finalist.
Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.
Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.
Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.
"Vivid and powerful." -Booklist, Starred Review
"A visceral portrait of a young man reckoning with the ugly, persistent violence of social injustice." -Publishers Weekly
About the Author
You can find her fangirling over her husband and sons on Twitter and Instagram at @getnicced or on her website nicstone.info.
Read an Excerpt
From where he’s standing across the street, Justyce can see her: Melo Taylor, ex-girlfriend, slumped over beside her Benz on the damp concrete of the FarmFresh parking lot. She’s missing a shoe, and the contents of her purse are scattered around her like the guts of a pulled party popper. He knows she’s stone drunk, but this is too much, even for her.
Jus shakes his head, remembering the judgment all over his best friend Manny’s face as he left Manny’s house not fifteen minutes ago.
The walk symbol appears.
As he approaches, she opens her eyes, and he waves and pulls his earbuds out just in time to hear her say, “What the hell are you doing here?”
Justyce asks himself the same question as he watches her try—and fail—to shift to her knees. She falls over sideways and hits her face against the car door.
He drops down and reaches for her cheek—which is as red as the candy-apple paint job. “Damn, Melo, are you okay?”
She pushes his hand away. “What do you care?”
Stung, Justyce takes a deep breath. He cares a lot. Obviously. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t’ve walked a mile from Manny’s house at three in the morning (Manny’s of the opinion that Melo’s “the worst thing that ever happened” to Jus, so of course he refused to give his boy a ride). All to keep his drunken disaster of an ex from driving.
He should walk away right now, Justyce should.
But he doesn’t.
“Jessa called me,” he tells her.
“Don’t be like that, babe. She only called me because she cares about you.”
Jessa had planned to take Melo home herself, but Mel threatened to call the cops and say she’d been kidnapped if Jessa didn’t drop her at her car.
Melo can be a little dramatic when she’s drunk.
“I’m totally unfollowing her,” she says (case in point). “In life and online. Nosy bitch.”
Justyce shakes his head again. “I just came to make sure you get home okay.” That’s when it hits Justyce that while he might succeed in getting Melo home, he has no idea how he’ll get back. He closes his eyes as Manny’s words ring through his head: This Captain Save-A-Ho thing is gonna get you in trouble, dawg.
He looks Melo over. She’s now sitting with her head leaned back against the car door, half-asleep, mouth open.
He sighs. Even drunk, Jus can’t deny Melo’s the finest girl he’s ever laid eyes—not to mention hands—on.
She starts to tilt, and Justyce catches her by the shoulders to keep her from falling. She startles, looking at him wide-eyed, and Jus can see everything about her that initially caught his attention. Melo’s dad is this Hall of Fame NFL linebacker (biiiiig black dude), but her mom is from Norway. She got Mrs. Taylor’s milky Norwegian complexion, wavy hair the color of honey, and amazing green eyes that are kind of purple around the edge, but she has really full lips, a small waist, crazy curvy hips, and probably the nicest butt Jus has ever seen in his life.
That’s part of his problem: he gets too tripped up by how beautiful she is. He never would’ve dreamed a girl as fine as her would be into him.
Now he’s got the urge to kiss her even though her eyes are red and her hair’s a mess and she smells like vodka and cigarettes and weed. But when he goes to push her hair out of her face, she shoves his hand away again. “Don’t touch me, Justyce.”
She starts shifting her stuff around on the ground—lipstick, Kleenex, tampons, one of those circular thingies with the makeup in one half and a mirror in the other, a flask. “Ugh, where are my keeeeeeeys?”
Justyce spots them in front of the back tire and snatches them up. “You’re not driving, Melo.”
“Give ’em.” She swipes for the keys but falls into his arms instead. Justyce props her against the car again and gathers the rest of her stuff to put it back in her bag—which is large enough to hold a week’s worth of groceries (what is it with girls and purses the size of duffel bags?). He unlocks the car, tosses the bag on the floor of the backseat, and tries to get Melo up off the ground.
Then everything goes really wrong, really fast.
First, she throws up all over the hoodie Jus is wearing.
Which belongs to Manny. Who specifically said, “Don’t come back here with throw-up on my hoodie.”
Jus takes off the sweatshirt and tosses it in the backseat.
When he tries to pick Melo up again, she slaps him. Hard. “Leave me alone, Justyce,” she says.
“I can’t do that, Mel. There’s no way you’ll make it home if you try to drive yourself.”
He tries to lift her by the armpits and she spits in his face.
He considers walking away again. He could call her parents, stick her keys in his pocket, and bounce. Oak Ridge is probably the safest neighborhood in Atlanta. She’d be fine for the twenty-five minutes it would take Mr. Taylor to get here.
But he can’t. Despite Manny’s assertion that Melo needs to “suffer some consequences for once,” leaving her here all vulnerable doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. So he picks her up and tosses her over his shoulder.
Melo responds in her usual delicate fashion: she screams and beats him on the back with her fists.
Justyce struggles to get the back door open and is lowering her into the car when he hears the WHOOOOP of a short siren and sees the blue lights. In the few seconds it takes the police car to screech to a stop behind him, Justyce settles Melo into the backseat.
Now she’s gone catatonic.
Justyce can hear the approaching footsteps, but he stays focused on getting Melo strapped in. He wants it to be clear to the cop that she wasn’t gonna drive so she won’t be in even worse trouble.
Before he can get his head out of the car, he feels a tug on his shirt and is yanked backward. His head smacks the doorframe just before a hand clamps down on the back of his neck. His upper body slams onto the trunk with so much force, he bites the inside of his cheek, and his mouth fills with blood.
Jus swallows, head spinning, unable to get his bearings. The sting of cold metal around his wrists pulls him back to reality.
It hits him: Melo’s drunk beyond belief in the backseat of a car she fully intended to drive, yet Jus is the one in handcuffs.
The cop shoves him to the ground beside the police cruiser as he asks if Justyce understands his rights. Justyce doesn’t remember hearing any rights, but his ears had been ringing from the two blows to the head, so maybe he missed them. He swallows more blood.
“Officer, this is a big misundersta—” he starts to say, but he doesn’t get to finish because the officer hits him in the face.
“Don’t you say shit to me, you son of a bitch. I knew your punk ass was up to no good when I saw you walking down the road with that goddamn hood on.”
So the hood was a bad idea. Earbuds too. Probably would’ve noticed he was being trailed without them. “But, Officer, I—”
“You keep your mouth shut.” The cop squats and gets right in Justyce’s face. “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?”
Except that doesn’t even make sense. If Mel had locked the keys in the car, Jus wouldn’t have been able to get her inside it, would he? Justyce finds the officer’s nameplate; castillo, it reads, though the guy looks like a regular white dude. Mama told him how to handle this type of situation, though he must admit he never expected to actually need the advice: Be respectful; keep the anger in check; make sure the police can see your hands (though that’s impossible right now). “Officer Castillo, I mean you no disresp—”
“I told your punk ass to shut the fuck up!”
He wishes he could see Melo. Get her to tell this cop the truth. But the dude is blocking his view.
“Now, if you know what’s good for you, you won’t move or speak. Resistance will only land you in deeper shit. Got it?”
Cigarette breath and flecks of spit hit Justyce’s face as the cop speaks, but Justyce fixes his gaze on the glowing green F of the FarmFresh sign.
“Look at me when I’m talking to you, boy.” He grabs Justyce’s chin. “I asked you a question.”
Justyce swallows. Meets the cold blue of Officer Castillo’s eyes. Clears his throat.
“Yes sir,” he says. “I got it.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a timeless piece of literature. I have not personally encountered any of the events that have been portrayed here, but I experienced the anger, anxiety, and sense of hopelessness through the characters. Great writing!
Couldn't stop reading it and loved the perspective of what would Martin do as racism continues to unravel here in America. I really enjoyed hearing and viewing the racism from the perspective of young together black male. Keep writing and delivering today's problems, education is the key to acceptance and change.
My 15 years old son read it and got goosebumps and I just did; It spoke to the scary truth that our young man face.
I was so impressed with what Nic Stone could do in this book. The experiences of ignorant racism and blatant racism Justyce deals with every day in school is something I see as a teacher. A Black kid decides to try and wake people up when their ignorance is showing, and those white kids get uncomfortable and angry. They've never been made to see past their privilege before. I love how Justyce tries to walk in the steps of Dr. King while trying to discover the person he's going to be, the person who he wants to be. I also love how he struggles to find a way to engage with a world where he will have to deal with racism and ignorance no matter how successful he is. I love the way Justyce mirrors Dr. King, but also veers and questions, and finds himself making allies in unexpected places and ways. Phew, I said LOVE a lot in that last paragraph. No regrets. I can't wait for my students to be able to read this book.
Dear Martin was absolutely wonderful. I enjoyed every aspect of the story. It made me laugh and cry. The author explained wonderfully of how the main character was feeling. SJ was a great character to add in the story because I personally relate to her. I totally would recommend to anyone who has been watching the news recently. It is definitely a MUST READ! It makes me feel so empowered to change the world!
Content Warnings: racism, police brutality, death, blackface, injury detail Dear Martin was undoubtedly an intense read. I read it some time ago but I can remember the feelings it created in me. So much anger towards the white characters in the novel. I think this novel truly did what it had to do.
While helping out his drunk ex-girlfriend get home, Justyce was arrested by an officer thinking that he was taking advantage her, most likely because he is black. So he uses Martin Luther King Jr.'s words and actions to get through it. This book is amazing! The thing I love most about it is the unbiased thoughts of Justyce. The honest truth of feeling guilty because of peer pressure! Like when he let things be just because he doesn't want to be a trouble to his friends. And the way the realizations of the characters came to be. The character growth of these characters are so amazing! and it's just amazing! The romance aspect of this book is so adorable too! It kept me on my toes! I know this is a short review but trust me on this, pick this up and read this! In my case, I listened to the audiobook. And just to add, the narrator is pretty at giving Justyce's voice. Such an amazing read! I did read this for my Black History Month reads, and I learned so much about Martin Luther King Jr. and what equality actually looks like. Pretty good stuff!
MUST READ !!!
It opened my eyes and made me cry...it's a beautiful book. I'm going to get it for my friend.
This book needs to be read. It has such a strong, powerful message. It's moving, eye-opening, deeply real and it's one of those books that once you read it, will make you really think about how nothing has sadly changed. This book should be required reading.
This book took me through a lot of emotions, and considering I finished it over the course of 3 hours that was a lot. It has something for all ages, races, and cultures to take away from. The questions asked are great conversations that we need to start having in order to begin the transition we need in this world.
Disclaimer: This review reflects my unbiased opinion and as a result I am not able to promise a wholly positive review. My apologies in advance. Tw0-Sentence Summary:Dear Martin is rips off the band-aide and gives the reader a raw, unfiltered look into social injustice, police profiling, police brutality, race and racism in America. Stone lets the reader know in no uncertain terms that we are far from a post racial society. What Popped: What didn't? I loved how Stone interlaced the Dear Martin letters into the narrative. I loved that the rise and fall of the tension. What Flopped: The one thing I didn't particularly care for is that I didn't really get why Justyce was writing the letters. I eventually got it, but not until pretty late in the novel. My Thoughts: So, I read this book a few weeks ago and really had to process it. I didn't think I would have such a hard time processing it, but I did. Stone draws you into Dear Martin really fast. It's fast paced captivating. I had no doubts that I would enjoy it but it far exceeded my expectations. The novel does not shy away from the fact that we need to have a conversation about race and race relations in this country. And Stone shows us that the problem with race is handed down, so-to-speak from generation to generation. For example: Justyce's mother doesn't like white people and she views them as the enemy; which she impresses upon him. But he doesn't see all white people as the enemy. He realizes that some are and some aren't - just like black people. I loved Justyce and Sarah and was secretly rooting for them to get together. Justyce was all about doing right and being the best person that he could be; which is why he was so confused and hurt when a police officer handcuffed him and accused him of trying to steal his ex-girlfriends car. When in actuality all he was trying to do was get her home safely because she had had too much to drink. And Sarah, oh my gosh, is she a firecracker. She reminded me of me. Always fighting for the rights of the underdog. Calling into question the rules and the status quo. Sarah is the loud voice of social justice/injustice. She has strong opinions and is not afraid to tell you what they are. Perhaps my lease favorite character was Jared. Your stereo-typical privileged, rich white kid who thinks the world revolves around him. He brings up affirmative action when he discovers that Justyce has been accepted to Yale and his acceptance was deferred. Jared says that it "discriminates against members of the majority." And that he when he sees a minority at whatever college he ends up in he'll "wonder if they're qualified to be there." For some reason Jared sees himself as smarter and more qualified than a minority. He feels himself to be superior. Favorite Quotes: "Why try to do right if people will always look at me and assume wrong?" ~~Quan It's like I'm trying to climb a mountain, but I've got one fool trying to shove me down so I won't be on his level, and another fool tugging at my leg, trying to pull me to the ground he refuses to level. ~~Justyce
I couldn't even title this review. This was just... EVERYTHING. I am purchasing this in hardcover for a beautiful STRONG woman of color, who needs to have this in her life. #blackgirlmagic in all its glory. I will be screaming about this book from the rooftops for years to come. BRAVO!
For such a short book, Dear Martin packs a tough punch. From the first page, Nic Stone's powerful writing had me instantly hooked. The story focuses on Justyce, an African-American teenager going to a predominantly upper class and white school, and his experience with racism and police brutality as he tries to channel Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dear Martin was extremely raw and did not hold back on its depictions of the injustices that occur in America every day, which makes it a vitally important book.
As Justyce keeps a journal, making inquiries to Martin Luther King as to why his life is turning upside down, Justyce is confused on how to proceed forward. He sees these inequalities, these injustices that are based upon the color of his skin, and it infuriates him. But what can Justyce do about them and why can’t everyone else see them? As I listened to this novel, I can’t tell you how many times I said out loud, “What? You have got to be kidding me?’ I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing through my speakers. I felt for Justyce as he tried to figure out what his next step would be. I was frustrated, angry and ticked as people tried to use their power to win. I know this is a problem that needs to be addressed and fixed and I am glad that this book addresses it. The truth of the matter is, no one is really listening. No one wants to listen, they are using their other senses but not really listening to what is happening or what occurred. I think this happens in the lives of other individuals too and not just African Americans. All lives matter. Listen people, for once keep quiet and listen to the voices of those around you. They are important too. You just might learn something. It’s a powerful novel and one that will surely make you think. 4.5 stars
Powerful and raw and thoughtful and real with lovely, moving writing and perfect voice. Everyone should read this book.
Wow. This was one of the most impactful books I've read this year (maybe even in my entire life). This book takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions—I laughed, I cried, I was frustrated, shocked and angry. Please please please pick up this book if you can, I promise you won't regret it. I think it is best to go into the book without knowing too much. Dear Martin is about an African-American kid named Justyce who gets caught up in a hassle with a white police officer who misinterpreted a situation and wants to arrest him. Since his encounter with the police, Justyce has begun to take notice of the treatment of black people in the news, among his friends and at school. Throughout the book, you will see plenty of discussions about racial profiling, police brutality against black people, white privilege and general racism. These topics are addressed and thoroughly depicted through the situations and things that Justyce, as a young black man, has to go through. What I loved about this book is that it does this through SHOWING and not so much telling. Dear Martin is a fairly short book, but it’s very educational and puts things into perspective. I’d recommend it to people who want to know what it’s really like to live in the US as a black citizen. It depicts topics such as police brutality in a compact, but honest and powerful way. Overall, Dear Martin was an incredibly impactful read that really gets you to THINK. It will make you fall in love with the characters (I LUV JUSTYCE), and then rip your heart out in the same scene. Wow. Just wow. *Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy via Netgalley. This did not affect my opinion in any way!*