Certainly an important book, I’m not sure that Dear Martin is an essential read. This may be because of the style, which eventually settles, but it takes about a quarter of the book to do so. In a short book, this transition becomes even more magnified, but it’s not a deal breaker. It was just a little unfamiliar for me to find a switch between the narrative and the main character of Justyce writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King (hence the Dear Martin of the title). The storytelling is presented in perhaps a different narrative style to what I am used to reading, and this, coupled with the font (yes, the font) being difficult to read at first, I almost quit on the book.
However, it’s profound and powerful, especially for a Young Adult novel that rarely deals with subject matter in this detail. In fact, the primary story of a Yale-bound student and the contempory reality that an African-American teenager faces, which is certainly not a pleasant one. There are a couple of significant incidents that affect the pacing and to give either of them away (one is listed on the book jacket, which even feels like a spoiler), would be to undermine the accomplishment of Stone, a debut author, and what she is able to accomplish through the telling of the story, capturing voices of young people, and a male first person protagonist and a sense of injustice that is present in the life of Justyce. The ending comes together quite well, (which I thought would be impossible given the high stakes), and reflects not a hopeful or hopeless message, but one somewhere in the middle, (though definitely trending downwards). In short, it is a gut-punch of a novel.
Dear Martin was provided by Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. It may be purchased from your friendly independent bookseller or other fine bookstores.