by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
I've shared my love for Nic Stone's Dear Martin all over the internet—I think it is such a powerful foundation for conversations with teenagers about police violence, racism, and justice. I'm sure it will be no surprise, then, that I was INCREDIBLY excited to see Nic Stone's announcement of a sequel, Dear Justyce. (No worries! This will be a spoiler-free review of book two.)
Dear Martin's protagonist is Justyce McCallister, a Black teenager who, after becoming a victim of police violence, begins writing letters in his journal to Martin Luther King, Jr., to wrestle with the best way for him to deal with the trauma.
Dear Justyce flips things around. Now, it's Justyce who is the wise recipient of letters from Quan. Quan, who appeared briefly in Dear Martin, is Justyce's age and lived in his neighborhood. Now, though, Quan is in the Fulton Regional Youth Detention Center, and his letters to Justyce are a way for him to work out his own thinking about his life.
I wasn't sure how I'd feel about a new protagonist because I love Justyce so much, but shifting this story to focus on Quan was a brilliant decision. (I shouldn't be surprised! Nic Stone is amazing.) Quan is a compelling figure, one who is torn between a series of problematic role models: his father, who is caring and affectionate with Quan but is in prison; his mother, who loves him and his younger siblings but who can't protect herself or her family from abuse at the hands of her boyfriend; his teachers, who variously encourage him and sabotage his self worth; and Martel, the ex-social worker who offers Quan and his family protection.
This is a nuanced novel that, once again, would be a great foundation for discussion: I think teenagers will appreciate Stone's touch with character and her multi-genre approach to sharing Quan's past and present. Dear Justyce is a substantive, welcome shift in perspective and a beautiful companion to Dear Martin.
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