Dear Martin is up there with The Hate U Give, but instead of through the eyes of a girl who saw her friend killed, it’s through the eyes of a boy who knows all too well what it’s like to be racially profiled. Dear Martin is direct in what it confronts which would make it great teaching material with plenty of discussion elements. It’s mixed-media approach to story-telling brings lots of perspectives to the table which demonstrates clearly the wrongness of refusing to accept the existence of white privilege, and portrays racism in a variety of forms.
Star rating: 4 stars
Dear Martin follows Justyce McAllister, a boy with top marks and Ivy League ambitions. He’s one of the only Black kids at his prep school, his best friend Manny being one of the others. After Justyce directly faces being racially profiled by a cop, he thinks more deeply about racism as a whole, learning through Martin Luther King. The first half of the book focusses on Justyce and his classmates – from Jared who doesn’t think racism is a problem anymore to Sarah Jane, a Jewish girl who is often used by Nic Stone to be the one who stands up to Jared. Class discussions are presented in a transcript format, which I think was a clever way of portraying perspectives and challenging racist viewpoints. The second part of the book is where the issues hit closer to home for Justyce, and is a turning point for a lot of his classmates too. It shouldn’t take personal tragedy to stop someone being racist but that’s exactly what happens with Jared.
Justyce is a good kid. He’s just trying to figure out who he is, what he wants, and what he stands for. In class discussions he is repeatedly accused of benefiting from being Black when it comes to college applications, and I have no idea how he sat through some of the conversations without hitting someone. Justyce is also confused about his feelings for Sarah Jane, as his mother doesn’t want him to date a white girl – clearly because she is scared for him about what might happen.
Honestly it’s hard to write more without spoiling the entire plot. The whole book made me angry because it is brimming with examples of racism that is so commonplace, some more direct than others. It makes an excellent education source particularly for those who need a place to start. It would have been 5 stars easily but I didn’t like how Justyce’s ex-girlfriend as the only mixed race character was presented – Melo deserved better than being presented as a stupid girl who Justyce only sees because she’s beautiful.
I encourage you to pick this up if you haven’t already. The writing is very accessible and it’s also a short book so won’t take too long to read. It will make you angry and sad and feel all the things. I am looking forward to picking up the next book in the series, Dear Justyce.