BLOGTOBER Day 5: Dear Justyce (Dear Martin #2) by Nic Stone
After finishing Dear Martin back in July, I wondered why it was getting a sequel. Justyce’s story resolves neatly in the first book in this series, and I couldn’t for the life of me see where the story could go from there.
Little did I know that the sequel was going to end up impressing me far more than Dear Martin. In fact, I think Dear Justyce is probably the most important book I’ll read this year.
If you’ve read Dear Martin, you’ll know that a large part of the story is told through letters. Justyce writes to his idol Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asking for advice after being racially profiled, questioning the way that the justice system treats black teens and confiding his attempts to be a model citizen in the hopes that he’ll never have another run in with the law.
In Dear Justyce, instead of focusing on Justyce we focus on Quan, a background character from the first novel. Quan has been arrested for the murder of a police officer, and he’s facing life imprisonment. Quan starts writing letters to Justyce and eventually tells him the story of the night that changed his life, and it turns out that things aren’t as clear cut as they seemed…
I think the reason this sequel works so well is because in some ways it’s telling the other side of the same story. In Dear Martin, Justyce is a straight-A student from a well-off family and he gets treated terribly by the police. Dear Justyce takes things one step further, exploring what happens to the Black student who is flunking out and living on the rough side of town when they come up against the long arm of the law.
In a year when the public scrutiny of the actions of police officers has reached new heights, it would be brilliant if I could say that the events in Dear Justyce were unrealistic. Sadly, this is the reality faced by all too many young men due to systemic racism in American law enforcement. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if cases were handled incorrectly – in fact, hardly handled at all – and coercion was used, because once a decision has been made (and has usually been made based off of the colour of someone’s skin), it’s nigh on impossible for the black mark on their record to be completely removed.
Nic Stone does a wonderful job of exploring the motivations behind Quan’s actions, and the way that the daily instances of microaggressions combine to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people constantly treat you as though you’re stupid, as though you can’t succeed, as though you’re destined to become a lifelong offender, then soon enough you’ll start believing it, no matter how hard you try to defy them.
This is one of the most necessary sequels I have ever read, and I am so grateful to Simon & Schuster for allowing me to read an advanced copy via NetGalley. I couldn’t see a way that Dear Justyce could surpass Dear Martin, but this book is uplifting and hopeful, focusing on the importance of friendship and having a strong support system in the face of corrupt power structures.
If you’ve been wondering whether it’s worth continuing on with Justyce’s story, I can confirm that it 100% is.
Dear Justyce is released in the UK tomorrow, so make sure to pick up a copy and support a very important novel.