A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The Author's Note mentions the "school-to-prison pipeline" and encourages readers to look it up. It also clarifies some differences in the way the legal system works in real life vs. the way it was depicted in the story. And it encourages readers to look for ways they can make a positive impact on somone who may be struggling. The story itself addresses lots of important issues surrounding the effects that lack of support and opportunity have on low-income families, and especially on Black children and young men.
Everyone needs someone who believes in them no matter what. Everyone also needs positive role models who can offer guidance and demonstrate what can be achieved and what a happy, healthy life looks like. Children need guidance from people who have high expectations and push them to achieve what they don't think they can, or to see possibilities they don't know exist for themselves. The Author's Note tells readers that each one is important and has a lot to contribute no matter how they feel, and not to let anyone else convince them otherwise.
Positive Role Models
Quan is a good role model for communication, integrity, perseverance, and self-control. From a young age he tries to cope with uncertainty and post-traumatic stress by staying focused on his siblings and schoolwork. When he reconnects with an old friend they write letters to each other and Quan is able to open up about his feelings. Justyce is a good role model for high academic achievement, for being a loyal and supportive friend, and for finding a practical way to make a real difference in Quan's life. There are plenty of negative role models, and it's very clear they're not examples to follow. Eventually Quan is helped by a team of people who believe him, believe in him, and care about what happens to him, and help the judicial system start working in Quan's favor. In terems of representation, the main characters are strong role models and positive representations of African Americans in different circumstances. A couple of characters are gay, and Quan has a positive experience staying with a same-sex couple of Black men.
Violence & Scariness
A young boy witnesses the brutal arrest of his father during which his father is knocked unconscious by a police officer and the boy is grabbed, dragged, and squeezed so tightly he can't breathe. A confrontation with police ends in shots being fired and a police officer being killed. Domestic violence is implied from sounds of violence and bruises. A past incident is remembered of being thrown across a room into a table. Mention that a woman's boyfriend takes out his anger on her. A hazing ritual isn't narrated but mentions that the victim was left with a black eye, sprained wrist, and bruised ribs.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mention of seeing a couple kiss. Several mentions of how attractive a woman is. Mention of seeing "two dudes crazy in love" and getting used to the idea. Seeing a used condom in a playground is implied.
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"Bulls---tin'," "s--t," "duck-ass," "a--hole," "nigga," "damn," "douchenozzle," "douchewangle," "crap," "WASP," and graffiti that reads, "F-U-K-C."
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Products & Purchases
A couple of snack, clothing, and book/movie franchises establish character.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens vape marijuana because they've sworn off blunts as carcinogenic. Mention that an 11-year-old was arrested for possession of alcohol. A teen has Jamaican ginger beer, not always alcoholic but mentions he starts to feel relaxed. Quan's father sells marijuana for a living. A neighbor says ganja is good for her glaucoma. A friend had a dime bag of marijuana. A character is mentioned holding a vape pen. Glass pipes and bowls are seen in a convenience store. A hypodermic needle is picked up in a playground. A criminal organization has a no-hard-drugs policy including "lean" (a drink mix that includes codeine), pills, and opioids.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.