Dear Martin provokes gut wrenching reality

Samantha Klepfer

Dear Martin by Nic Stone is a marvelous story about racism, police brutality and a young man searching for where he fits in the world. When a series of racism-laced events threaten to unravel his life, Justyce McAllister finds himself asking more questions than anyone around him can answer.  This prompts him to turn to an outside source for help: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Justyce writes many letters to Dr. King asking for all kinds of advice. Though he never receives a response, the letters help Justyce figure out what it means to be a black man in the 21st century and what kind of person he wants to be.

The story is very upfront and honest, painting realistic and relatable characters, with a subplot nicely interwoven with the main plot. The conclusion of Dear Martin is perfectly bittersweet, keeping me teetering between heartbroken and elated, not knowing if I’m crying tears of joy or heartache. The book ends nicely, purposefully leaving a fair amount of questions still hanging in the air, begging to be discussed.

Stone starts out narrating in the third person, seamlessly blending in a unique twist: the chapters combine with letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., transcripts and newspaper articles, depending on the relevance of each. These extra pieces fit perfectly with the story, adding new depth to the narrative by introducing different perspectives and information outlets. The fact that these are papers and letters that really exist within the story helps you get lost in the book, making you feel like you’re really there, alongside Justyce as he wades through a sea of racism and turmoil.

The novel deals with many topics that are typically shied away from. Justyce experiences racial profiling, police brutality and blatant stereotyping. Throughout all this, he has to deal with grief and loss, finding where he fits in, and microaggressions stemming from his privileged, white ‘friends’. Stone beautifully conveys the feeling of hopelessness and loss that Justyce struggles with throughout the novel. I normally don’t like it when books make me cry but Dear Martin was definitely worth it.

In her literary debut, Stone has created a heart wrenching story that will really resonate with High School students. The novel raises extremely important questions, and gives valuable and not always seen perspectives on relevant and significant events. I would rate Dear Martin 5/5 stars and would strongly recommend it to anyone, especially young adults. Dear Martin has now made a home for itself among the best books I have ever read. If you read one book this year, make it this one.