Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin (Dear Martin, #1)

by Nic Stone

After a traffic stop turns violent at the hands of the police, a young Black teen grapples with racism—and what it means for his future. Critically acclaimed author Nic Stone boldly tackles America’s troubled history with race relations in her gripping debut novel.
"Raw and gripping." –JASON REYNOLDS, #1 New York Times bestselling co-author of Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You
Justyce 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 without cause.
When faced with injustice, 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 and a friend spark the fury of an off-duty cop. Words fly, shots are fired, and the boys get caught in the crosshairs. But in the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.
"A must-read!” –ANGIE THOMAS, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give

"Powerful, wrenching.” –JOHN GREEN, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Turtles All the Way Down

Reviewed by Amber (The Literary Phoenix) on

4 of 5 stars

Dear Martin was an incredibly difficult book to read.

It’s a really short book, just over 200 pages, and every sentence is jam packed with reality. Honestly? It’s difficult to stomach. It’s supposed to be. Dear Martin is a book that makes you cringe because just about everyone in this book is racist. And before I go too deep here, I’m going to step back and say that I am a white girl living in Massachusetts and I have no idea the struggles young black man go through, especially in the American South. I am super privileged and I stand back and acknowledge that, and I’m grateful for it. I cannot imagine the daily trials from someone like Justyce.

Dear Martin tries to show some of those trials, so when you read this book… be prepared to be uncomfortable. It’s difficult to read. There are very few subtle acts of racism in this novel. From a classmate dressing up as a KKK member for Halloween to racially-charged murder, the events in Dear Martin may feel outrageous… but for some… for two many… this is just daily life. I’m grateful not to have witnessed anything like this myself, but a.) I am not a young black man; and b.) I don’t live in Georgia or one of the Southern States, which have always been more racially heated. After some of the news stories I’ve watched in the last two and a half years… I am becoming disillusioned about about the possibility of these things.

So that’s the content of Dear Martin, in a nutshell. Justyce is a young man just trying to be himself and live his life. In the first few pages,we see a young man trying to help his drunk friend get home safely turn quickly into a scene of racial profiling and wrongful arrest. This book is a good fit for those who enjoyed The Hate U Give and wanted to learn more. I don’t think anyone is going to pick up Dear Martin expecting a feel good book. When I reached the halfway point, I made a list of all the difficult topics I’d encountered so far. Here’s the list:

“Needing” a white savior
substance abuse
!! RACISM !! (- from all sides)
domestic abuse
interracial relationships and prejudice against them
police brutality
black face
racial stereotypes
historical/racial insensitivity
racial profiling
inequality in the workplace/classroom
resent over diversity hires/college acceptances
embodiment of racial hate symbols

This is in no particular order, and varies in severity (some of it is just a mention). If I haven’t already emphasized enough how many hard hitting topics there are in Dear Martin, let that be a sneak peek of the first 100 pages.

I thought this book was very powerful. To be honest, though? After a little while… I felt numb. And I think that can be a good thing. Dear Martin went in to unapologetically slam all these topics on the reader to wake them up, but it’s not a book that will delve deeply to flesh out a single incident. This is just a snapshot of Justyce’s daily life, and it’s up to the reader to dig for more information and become a better person after the book is over. I think that as a novel, The Hate U Give was more successful because of how Angie Thomas helped the reader into the story and focused really hard on a handful of racist incidents and tragedies. Reading Dear Martin, you walk out shell shocked. But I think that’s what Nic Stone set out to do… so well done.

And, I’ve got to be honest – it’s impossible not to compare the two. They came out at a similar time and covered very similar topics. From a flatly technical point of view, I think THUG was a better put together novel, but that shouldn’t lessen the message Dear Martin is trying to put across. I thought the characters here could have been rounded out a little better, and the plot could have stopped to breathe if this had another 100 pages, just so the readers could catch up. But it was a very successful novel in personal impact and I think everyone should read it.

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Reading updates

  • Started reading
  • 5 July, 2019: Finished reading
  • 5 July, 2019: Reviewed