“Dear Martin” by Nic Stone will likely be one of the most powerful, heartfelt, and honest books you will ever read. In only 200 pages, this fictional book teaches you about racism, class, and what it is like to be a black teenager in present-day America. “Dear Martin” is a story with dense material, yet it keeps your eyes glued to the pages, drawing you in for more. It rotates between displaying the letters the main character, Justyce, writes to Martin Luther King Jr., class discussions written in script-like style, and media articles. The novel engages you and allows you to dig deeper into Justyce’s character, making the story more personal. As it unfolds, readers witness his character development, and develop with him. Justyce constantly struggles with an internal conflict between what is right and wrong, what kind of person he is, and where he belongs.
The novel focuses on 17-year old Justyce McAllister who has a plan for his future. He is a best friend, a scholarship student at an elite, predominantly white preparatory school, a straight-A student, and co-captain of the debate team. This life of his, however, will come tumbling down when he tries to drive his ex-girlfriend, Melo, who is drunk after a night of partying, home safely. Within minutes, Justyce finds himself on the ground with handcuffs. This encounter changes his outlook on life, making him more aware of the racism he faces. Justyce then turns to the deceased historical figure, Martin Luther King Jr., for help. He starts to write “letters” to Martin Luther King about his daily experiences and his thoughts. To live more like Martin Luther King, Justyce applies Dr. King’s experiences to his own, and asks himself throughout the story: “What would Martin Luther King do?”
Though Justyce is the main focus, the characters around him, such as his best friend Manny, his teacher Doc, his co-captain SJ, and his classmate, Jared are all developed wonderfully. They are not just background characters; they bring so much to the story and shape Justyce throughout the novel. No one is unimportant.
“Dear Martin” does not have a satisfying, happy, or sad ending. Throughout the novel Justyce faces many ups and even more downs, and that is what makes it realistic. It revolves around the pressing issue of racial discrimination in America, but it also incorportates what it is like being a normal teenager in high school. College, friendships, family, and romance, are all intertwined together in a way that doesn’t feel forced. “Dear Martin” is an extremely relevant book that reflects issues today and will move you deeply. I guarantee that every reader will connect with the story one way or another.