You Ever Consider That Maybe Your Not Supposed To ‘Fit’
Updated: Oct 23, 2022
Stone, N. (2018, April 24). Dear Martin. Rowohlt Taschenbuch. ISBN 978-3499218330
Justyce McAllister, seventeen-year-old college-bound student, 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. 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.
The story begins with Justyce trying to help his ex-girlfriend, who’s “stone drunk” and trying to drive herself home. Before Justyce can get her in the car, he is forced to the ground by a police officer and handcuffed. Justyce is a “17-year-old high school senior and full-scholarship student at Braselton Preparatory Academy” and ranked fourth in his graduating class. He knows that the education he’s receiving will open more opportunities but begins to question everything including his own identity after this incident. The story does not shy away from much-needed conversations about racism and racial profiling in America. The characters in this book successfully accomplish approaching these tough issues from a variety of perspectives that debate both sides of the story. While Stone explores serious topics, the character dynamics often bring humor to the story, which balances out the intensity.
Justyce is an African American teen caught between two worlds and wrestles with what that means through a series of letters to Dr. Martin Luther King. The letters to “Martin”, compliment the main narrative. For Justyce, the outside world isn’t the only problem. Justyce begins to experience confrontations with racism with everyone he knows, including his own mother. His classmates assume he has his spot at the Academy and his acceptance to Yale because of affirmative action and friends from his old neighborhood criticize him for being a “race-traitor” and accuse him of forgetting where he’s from. When Justyce’s best friend is shot by an off-duty cop, it is more than he can bear and causes him to question his blackness, his relationship with his biracial girlfriend, and his attraction to the only girl he really cares about who happens to be white.
The length and pace of this novel is well-written and would be a great fit for reluctant and seasoned readers alike. This book had me captivated the entire time and I had a hard time putting it down. The discussions are raw, uncensored, and full of truth, which will grab the reader's attention and make them think. The audio version is narrated by actor Dion Graham who is a perfect fit for the main character, and he easily transitions into the voices of the other characters. For this book, I listened to the unabridged version on Sora, but it is available on Libby and Audible as well.
Perhaps a bright young man who is fourth in his graduating class, captain of the debate team, and on his way to an Ivy League school shouldn’t have too many worries. But Justyce McAllister’s grades have no influence on the police officer who handcuffs him while he’s trying to help his inebriated ex-girlfriend. The African American teen is shocked and angered when the officer is cleared of all charges, and so he turns to the written work of Martin Luther King Jr. for direction, inspiration, and therapy. He presents a simple question to the late civil rights leader: “What would you do, Martin?” After Justyce witnesses the fatal shooting of his best friend by an off-duty officer, and his name is negatively spread through the media, he begins to withdraw from friends and family, only finding solace in his teacher, new girlfriend, and his continued ruminative letter writing to Dr. King. Stone’s debut confronts the reality of police brutality, misconduct, and fatal shootings in the U.S., using an authentic voice to accurately portray the struggle of self-exploration teens like Justyce experience every day. Teens, librarians, and teachers alike will find this book a godsend in assisting discussions about dealing with police, as well as the philosophical underpinnings of King’s work. Vivid and powerful. Grades 9-12
- Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
William C. Morris Debut YA (Finalist), 2018
Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award (Finalist), 2018
Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, 2018
New York Times Bestseller, 2020
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Activities for During and After Reading
Adjectives to describe each character
Trace the evolution of one or more characters
Create a playlist for a character
Create a Twitter/Instagram/Facebook profile for one or more characters
Write a bio poem from the point of view of a character
Write a letter from a character’s past or future self
Plot and Point of View
Rewrite a pivotal scene from the book
Summary and Critique
Compare/Contrast Dear Martin and Dear Justyce through art, video, essay, or poetry
More Prompts and Ideas!