A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
Stands out for positive role models.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nic Stone's Dear Justyce is a sequel to her popular Dear Martin. The story revolves around a couple of incidents of police brutality and excessive force that echo several real-life tragic deaths, so it might trigger powerful emotions in readers who reacted strongly to those. One involves a teen witnessing a hostile confrontation with police that ends in a shooting, and another involves an elementary-school-age boy who sees his father violently arrested and knocked unconscious. The boy himself is painfully dragged and squeezed until he can't breathe. Domestic violence is also a strong theme, with very little actually seen but scary noises and bruises and other injuries imply being beaten. Teens vape marijuana once or twice, a character's dad sells marijuana for a living. An adult gives a teen "Jamaican ginger brew" that's possibly alcoholic. Strong language includes "bulls---tin'," "s--t," "nigga," and "a--hole." Overall messages are positive but cautionary about what kinds of support people in distressed communities need in order to have hope and thrive. The main characters are strong role models and positive representations of African Americans in different circumstances.
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What's the story?
DEAR JUSTYCE is the story of Quan, who ever since he was a little kid has tried so hard to keep it together under tough circumstances. He's good at math and loves to read, but the one teacher he has a real connection with goes on maternity leave, and suddenly it's like no one in school even notices him. He tries to protect his younger siblings from his mom's abusive boyfriend. He has a loving and close relationship with his father, but witnesses his father's violent arrest and doesn't see or hear from his father for many years afterward. As he becomes a teen, he starts making some poor choices, but really, what were his alternatives? While spending two years in a juvenile detention facility awaiting trial for murder, he strikes up a correspondence with Justyce, an old friend from the neighborhood who's now a freshman at Yale. Through writing to Justyce, working toward getting a high-school diploma, and getting into therapy for his panic attacks, Quan starts to feel again like he's seen, heard, and valued as a human being, and like he has something to contribute to this world. But with a long jail sentence an almost certainty, how can he hold on to hope?
Is it any good?
This moving sequel is a realistic and powerful look at what happens when hope for your future trickles away drop by drop, starting when you're just 9 years old. Like Dear Martin, Quan's story in Dear Justyce has fully believable characters coping with events and circumstances that feel ripped from the headlines. And the story's also told in letters, movie-script dialogue, and straightforward narration. But this time author Nic Stone takes an unblinking look at what can happen to kids who don't have the same kind of support and resources that Justyce had. Thanks to the believable voices of Quan and Justyce, it's always compelling and sometimes frustrating or heartbreaking, sometimes funny, and sometimes even hopeful.
Fans of Justyce will be glad to catch up with him and a few other characters from Dear Martin. And whether readers are new to the franchise or not, there are plenty of new characters to root for and relate to as they ask themselves big, important questions about what people need to grow, thrive, and dream.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Dear Justyce portrays Quan and Justyce. Are they both role models? What are their character strengths and weaknesses?
Why is it important to see different types of people and different skin colors represented in media? How do you feel when there's a character you can identify with? What can you learn about people who are different from you?
Did you read Dear Martin? How does this book compare? Which do you like better? If you didn't read it, would you like to now?
- Author: Nic Stone
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: September 29, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: October 23, 2020
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