Monday, July 3, 2017

Book Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone (ARC)

There are not enough stars in the galaxy to give to this book. Thank you Nic Stone & Crown for giving #bookodyssey the chance to preview an ARC (Release: Oct 2017). If only we could require common reading for, well, everyone! As moving as it is heartbreaking, as inspiring as it is tragic and rage-inducing, may this book help us grapple with the questions and answers we all must face, together.

Quick Summary: Dear Martin tells the story of Justyce, an All-American high-school teen on top of it all. He's kind, friendly, smart, and hard-working. An Atlanta prep-school student, he is looking forward to his Ivy League Future that he's worked so hard for. But after being handcuffed and punched by a cop while trying to help his ex-girlfriend get home safely - his world shifts. While he did get released, afterwards he started to notice all these things he hadn't before. He doesn't fit in in his mostly-white upper-class prep school, and also feels out of place in his old neighborhood. He starts journaling to Dr. Martin Luther King to process and try to live the way he thinks Dr. King would if in his place. As Justyce continues his day-to-day, from debates in school classes to off-campus parties, from decisions about girls to his family (mom) back home- Justyce tries to act as Dr. King would, but it gets harder and harder with each passing slight. After continued incidents with classmates, things escalate in an incident with an off-duty copy... and you'll have to read for the rest.

Without sharing too much (you need to pre-order this, yesterday) here's a few things that make this book so incredible: 
  • Nic Stone's opening Dear Reader note. I'm talking a full-page origin story. It's so rare for authors to disclose feelings of vulnerability - thanks to this added gift, I feel like I know Nic and the heart of this book so much closer before even beginning.
  • Raw, Real, Tragic Time Capsule of America in 2017.  So often, people dance around a topic but Stone dives head-on: "Mama told him how to handle this type of situation, though he must admit he never expected to need the advice: Be respectful; keep the anger in check; make sure the police can see your hands..." (8) 
  • Justyce's self-reflection and awareness & Dear Martin Letters. Justyce's letters to Dr. King show us glimpses of his stream-of-consciousness and change of philosophy, far deeper than narration could. "I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I'd be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know? Really hard to swallow that I was wrong." (12) 
  • All the arguments. We don't just see Justyce's perspective. Through Doc's class debates (wow, what a teacher, by the way, I could write a whole post just about him!) you see the logic (failed logic) of so many of the arguments his racist classmates make. Echoing the many arguments you hear pundits use on TV, those who seem to think we're all 'equal' and the world is 'color-blind' - Stone in writing these debates and side comments deftly pries the ignorance of these statements apart, layer by layer, character by character. 

Get this in your hands, your friend's hands, your colleague's hands. This book y'all.  I'll be pre-ordering for my own copy... counting down to October 2017! 

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