A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nic Stone's Dear Martin tells the story of an Ivy League-bound African-American student named Justyce who becomes a victim of racial profiling. He struggles to reconcile the fact that he's a "good kid" with suddenly being in police handcuffs. In the months that follow, Justyce confronts injustices and micro-aggressions he experiences at his mostly white prep school and the fallout from his brief detainment. There's violence, including boys getting into fights with punches thrown and lips bloodied, police brutality, a teen shot, an officer killed offstage, and racist experiences. There's some swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t"), teen drinking, and grief. Parents should be prepared to talk about current events, the Black Lives Matter movement, underage drinking, and stereotypes.
What's the story?
In DEAR MARTIN, Justyce McAllister attends an exclusive private school with mostly white students. He's on the debate team, has some of the best grades in his class, and is certain he's headed to Yale. Then one night changes his life and puts him on a path that has him questioning why things happen and what he can do to change them. His Dear Martin project, in which he tries to live like Martin Luther King Jr., is put in jeopardy from the moment he's put in handcuffs. Tested by racist classmates, skeptical friends from his former neighborhood, and a rain of bullets, Justyce finds himself a target in the battle over police brutality and race. What would Martin do?
Is it any good?
Endearing and painfully realistic, this could be a news story any day in America. Dear Martin author Nic Stone manages not only to maintain the characters' humanity in what could easily become a paint-by-number pulled-from-the-headlines story, but also breathes a realness into each character so they become just like people readers already know. Stone moves beyond character archetypes into fully realized humans with a depth and fragility that's sometimes lost in current-events novels. From seeing the micro-aggressions and posttraumatic stress brought on by a frightening encounter with the police, to experiencing the everyday details of first relationships and parental expectations, readers slip easily into Justyce's mind and feelings, truly going on this journey with him.
Dear Martin is told in an alternating mix of third-person narration, script-like dialogues, and letters to Martin Luther King Jr. It's well-written, honest, and a gut punch that leaves readers thinking about it for weeks after reading it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the media portrays the Black Lives Matter movement and unarmed victims of police violence in Dear Martin. Is there a pattern? Can you pick out "coded language"? What does it mean when commentators in the media use that language?
Have you ever been afraid to lose friends because you disagreed with them? How did you handle it?
What prejudices might you have against other people or religions? What generalizations do you have about others? How can you learn more about people to avoid stereotypes?
- Author: Nic Stone
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: October 17, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14
- Number of pages: 224
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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