Crown Books for Young Readers
Published on October 17, 2017
About Dear Martin
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.
Okay, wow. I liked this book so much. Honestly, I worried a little bit at the beginning that it would be too much like The Hate U Give, which I also liked, but I was hoping this wasn’t a repeat, if that makes sense, since the story sounded similar in some ways. (Kid from a lower income neighborhood going to a private school who has experiences with police brutality, racism and gang violence, even an interracial relationship and how difficult that is for a family member.) And all those elements definitely play a role in this story, but it still felt like a completely different book in the way the story was told.
I loved that Jus writes letters to Dr. King. What a cool way to connect the Civil Rights movement to a present-day story and situation. I also felt like the story captured some of the complexity of a community facing issues like this. While this is Justyce’s story, we also see so many of the other characters respond to what’s happening in striking ways—sometimes because they’re so emotional and other times because they simply aren’t.
I think The Hate U Give is an incredibly powerful story, and I don’t want to take anything away from it or from the amazing author, Angie Thomas, by saying this, but actually, I liked Dear Martin better. Amazing story. If you’re going to read a novel about American race relations, I definitely recommend this one. (Check the content information and be sure you’re comfortable with everything in it first, of course.)
Justyce and his best friend Manny are black and go to a mostly white school. Justyce’s close friend and debate partner is Jewish. Jus writes letters to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently. It was sporadic enough that I’d sometimes forget it was in the story. Often used in anger. Some racial epithets also used infrequently.
Jus makes vague mention of experiences with his past girlfriend. His best friend reminds him about an incident in which he caught a girlfriend cheating on him (he references Jus finding her in a compromising position).
During a funeral, Jus thinks about his friend’s beliefs and how they contrast what the preacher is saying about living on in Heaven. His friend didn’t believe in God.
Brief descriptions of violence and racial epithets. A couple scenes show or reference one kid punching another. Usually those moments are choppy and out of focus. Another scene shows a man shooting two kids. News stories and conversations reference other shootings.
Jus drinks alcohol twice.