I absolutely loved The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas. When I heard about Dear Martin, I snatched up the audiobook the first chance I got. I loved it SO much, and I can’t wait to share my review with you guys.
Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.
Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.
I love the characters in this novel. Justyce aspires to be like Martin Luther King, so he writes a series of letters to him. In these letters, Justyce talks about his struggles as an African American teen- the racist attitudes he encounters as a part of daily life, and also things like romance. It becomes apparent that Justyce is a person of principle. He strives to be the best person that he can and to do the right thing. The turn of events in this novel pits Justyce against his principles and he has to make a choice that will determine the person he will become.
As you can guess, this book talks about racism and police brutality. I love how the book allows for areas of grey and ambiguity, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. Yes, the police officer who shoots the innocent black kid is wrong to do so, and yes, he should be convicted and jailed. However, we get a glimpse of his point of view and where these biases originate from. Justyce and his friend, Manny, are good kids who are devoted to their future. However, Manny’s cousins and many of the other African American kids on the block are involved in gang violence, and it is because of this that the stigma of violence still exist. I love that we get a sense of where each character comes from: not just Justyce and his friends, but also the police officer, the gang members, and Manny’s friends who are racist.
The characters change and grow. Justyce at first has almost a naive vision of “doing the right thing”, and this philosophy is challenged as the series of events unfold in this novel. We see how Justyce struggles with this, how his perspective on racism deepens, and how it affects the person he becomes. One of the minor characters in this book develops as well. The message of this book is uplifting in that people and their attitudes are able to change. Problems continue and society is slow to change, but there are people out there who are kind, who do not discriminate.
I love how concise this book is. The pacing is just right. There isn’t a chapter wasted and I am never bored.
My one small complaint about this book is that I am not convinced by the romance between Justyce and his love interest. I like the idea of an interracial relationship and the fact that this exists in this novel, however, this romance feels a bit forced. I don’t quite sense the chemistry between the two.
The Bottom Line: 4.5/5 stars
Dear Martin is a phenomenal book that explores racism, gang violence and police brutality, showing us that it is more than black and white and there is no magic bullet. The key is to keep doing good. It’s a book that will stay in my head for long after I turned the last page.