Dear Justyce by Nic Stone. Crown, 2020. 9781984829665
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Realistic fiction
What did you like about the book? Quan relates his road to a Youth Detention Center through flashback “snapshots” (of memories) and in a series of letters to his friend Justyce. He tries to understand what he could have done differently, with his Dad incarcerated, his Mom neglectful, her boyfriend abusive, and teachers who were unwilling to believe in him (to the point where one accuses him of cheating when he gets a good score on his calc test). Also important to the story is the background of poverty and the gangs who come to “rescue” Quan. A reader will understand his PTSD, but assume nothing can be done to help him. Then Justyce, whom he has known since childhood, decides to try and help Quan, with the help of some friends from Yale. Justyce understands the factors that led Quan to jail, and decides to take a chance on his old friend.
This is an incredibly compelling story. It is billed as a sequel to Dear Martin, but it can stand alone. The different components of the story line are easy to follow, with flashbacks printed on light gray paper with dates preceding. Quan is a smart and thoughtful Black boy, but the adults around him seem bent on telling him he has no worth. It’s an important read, as it shows how poverty and trauma can erase the possibilities of a young life, and how easy it is to pass along a sense of powerlessness.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No, it’s great that it doesn’t need to be read in sequence with Dear Martin.
To whom would you recommend this book? For fans, age 13 and up, of Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, and to any readers of realistic current social justice stories.
Who should buy this book? Middle and high school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it ? Teen fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA
Date of review: March 15, 2021