I won “Dear Justyce” on NetGalley back in August (it was published on 01 November) and immediately went and bought the first book of the series, “Dear Martin” for my Kindle. The two books really need to be read together as they intertwine timelines and characters; as they’re YA books, they’re not too long so it’s more like reading one adult-length novel. I do recommend these novels, especially for people who are starting to explore Black Lives Matter type issues as there are plenty of examples of how to counter oppression, systemic racism and various common comments and viewpoints.

Nic Stone – “Dear Martin”

(25 August 2020)

Justyce is a young Black kid at a posh mostly White school and on the debating team, but as he gets racially profiled, brutally by the police and insidiously by his classmates, and bullied at school by his best friend Manny’s unpleasant White friends, he starts trying to work things out by writing letters to Martin Luther King Jr. Then, an incidence of extreme violence changes his life forever. Bereaved and lost, his views take a darker turn – is the presence of his excellent friend SJ, who could be more than a friend if only his mum approved of mixed-race relationships and his teacher Doc enough to keep him on the path to university or will he turn aside?

The White kids in class help rehearse come-backs to different statements of racism and the nihilistic viewpoints of some Black characters are also countered, giving the reader weapons against such speech themselves – and remembering this is written for a younger age group, that’s a good idea, although reading slightly over-didactically in places. You do root for Justyce and celebrate the feisty SJ.

Nic Stone – “Dear Justyce”

(25 August 2020)

Written two years after the first book after readers the author was in touch with asked her to write about them instead of a clever boy who was going places, we follow the story of Quan, Manny’s cousin, and see how a series of very small points where he is abandoned by authority figures and figures who should love him lead him almost inexorably down a path towards joining a gang, where he is seen and cared for at last. It’s nicely and carefully done, with different figures leading different kinds of lives for different reasons, and explores the injustices of the so-called justice system, as Quan sees White youths with often worse crimes getting off with a light sentence or fine where everyone assumes he’s a delinquent.

The narrative overlaps and intertwines with the first book very cleverly – for example, Justyce visits Quan in prison and is given a phone number – Quan doesn’t know if he uses it, but we’ve seen what happens in the first book. Justyce, SJ, teacher Doc, who Justyce sends to Quan in prison and a team of other support workers as well as a reformed White boy from the previous book who’s constantly checking his privilege work to help Quan rehabilitate himself and redress the injustice he’s got caught up in by confessing to a crime he might not even have done.

A positive book with a message that we can understand everyone’s motives (even the gang leader has a surprising education and motives) and that everyone can change – the author does admit that in real-life Georgia a real-life lad like Quan would not have all the support he’s given in the novel. But if it helps people to understand, the overt teaching and the slight exaggerations are worth it, in my opinion.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for making this book available to me via NetGalley in return for an honest review.