memorabilia

United States

she/her | america
16
exploring myself and the world at the same time

Message to Readers

I wholeheartedly recommend this book and truly believe that if every person was to read this we would see change. Change is progress and progress, no matter how slow, is important and necessary. I do hope you were able to get a clear look at this book through the review and I'd appreciate any feedback!

Dear Justyce- Unflinching & Relevant

January 18, 2021

"Dear, Justyce, 
How did you do it? We grew up in the same area. Went to the same elementary and middle school. Even had a class or two together. Why'd we turn out so different?"                         


This is a line from one of Quan's letters to Justyce from his current residence- prison. In "Dear Justyce", author Nic Stone tackles difficult but important subject matter such as racial injustice, stigma and prejudice, and the failures of America's criminal justice system. The reader is taken on a journey through pivotal moments in Quan's life, defining events that have brought him to this point: behind bars for a murder he's confessed to committing. But it's not that simple as the reader will soon learn. 

"Dear Justyce" is the companion novel to "Dear Martin", which addresses police brutality and the lives it touches; I highly recommend both but "Dear Justyce" is my favorite of the two. The pacing is well-adjusted to the topics explored- giving the reader time to grapple with the issues while also holding their attention until the very last page. It has an ultimately positive tone at its conclusion and though "Dear Justyce"s' pages are sobering, it expresses hope for change. It simply does not sugar-coat; which is vital. 

From prison, Quan, barely an adult, writes letters to Justyce, a childhood friend. These letters are part of what makes the story of Quan shine. They're painfully authentic, thought-provoking, and stirring. Nic Stone does a wonderful job of exploring the meaningfulness of support in a person's life. This means support from those who love you or that you love, those with an impact on you and your life, your community, and those you come in contact with. This support can change the course of your life for better and worse. Early on, we read about a math test he's studied extremely hard for at the encouragement of a resigning teacher. It pays off in a 98% which Quan is quickly accused of cheating for. His mother chooses to believe the school, refusing to believe her son could've improved so much. Positive support can make all the difference....but so can negative. This theme is thoroughly explored and makes Quan's narrative all the more shock-inducing. 

"And that was all he heard. Because in that moment everything crystallized for Vernell LaQuan Banks Jr. It didn't matter what he did. Staying focused didn't give Quan any control at all. 

Support from your community is equally as important. A good example from the book being when he enters a library to read and instead of his favorite librarian finds a new one who "frowned at him when came in." He also describes the woman who seems to be circling back to watch him in the children's section. He wonders why; if she thinks he's going to steal library books.  

 "Matter fact, we typically got the opposite. People telling us how "bad" we were. Constantly looking at us like they expected only the worst." 

The formatting of "Dear Justyce" is a pivotal piece of the storytelling. Not every paragraph is formatted to industry-standard, but important phrases or keywords are sometimes bolded or offset. Certain pieces are told in a variety of ways. Most of the story is told between letters and snapshot moments; like flashbacks. These differences make you stop and consider the importance of the moment or the phrase. Details that might stick with you for no longer than a second are now asking for you to read between the lines and step into another's shoes. They become opportunities to grow and widen your perspective. 

"But he wasn’t sure what he could do about it. Which became a running theme: not knowing what he could do about anything."

To put our criminal justice system- and more specifically its racial disparities- in perspective, here are some statistics. The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) reports that a Black person is five times more likely to be stopped without just cause than a white person. The ratio of African Americans in local jails to white Americans is 5 to 1, according to the American Bar Association and the Justice Department. The NAACP also reports that while the percentage of African Americans who illicitly use drugs is 5%, they account for 29% of those arrested and 33% of those incarcerated for drug offenses. Issues like these are woven into Quan's story in a way that humanizes hard facts such as these, making them impossible to ignore as the reader is exposed to the impact on these communities and our fellow human beings. 

The reader may not have struggled in the ways that Quan or Justyce have, but that's the beauty of this novel. It is a window into a broken cycle of "justice". A look into the life of an African American teen who feels like there was no other path open to him than the one he's taken; who feels hopeless. It's a book about people just like us, living and breathing just like us.  In the end, we're all humans. The reader is forced to come with the terms that this simple truth is forgotten far too much into today's climate.  The reader's worldview will be challenged, their perspective widened. There's a tangible connection to Quan- to real boys, girls, men, and women in which he was built in the reflection of- that every person on earth can find in the authenticity of each word in each letter that sends to his friend on the outside. 

This book carries mature, real-world subject matter such as racial injustice, sensitive words, prejudice, and more. These are topics that may be uncomfortable, but that doesn't make them any less important. This book should be the next title on your list. It is relevant and unflinching and poignant, and it will stay with you long after you turn the last page. The first part of creating change, of impacting others, is knowing what needs to be changed. So read "Dear Justyce", read "Dear Martin." Nic Stone's beautiful prose, interesting style, and honesty are admirable. They truly help the reader look at themselves in the mirror and out into the world we live in; what needs to be changed and how we can change it, not least what we can change about ourselves. We can be better. It starts in every hand, every heart, every home. This is a gripping and raw narrative that needs to reach the hands and hearts of every man, woman, and teenager. It is a book no household should be without. 

"I guess I didn't realize just how big of a difference it could make to have somebody really believe in you. I been thinking a lot about Trey and Mar and Brad and them. We were all looking for the same things, man- support, protection, family..." 

 
Dear Justyce quickly became my favorite book. I really enjoyed reading it; it was hauntingly beautiful but inexplicably sad. How many more books on this subject are going to need to be written before we can fix inter-community relations, destroy stigmas, and work to fix what isn't working?  If you're interested in the first book, the companion, "Dear Martin", that one is equally gut-wrenching and honest. Written by the same author. I truly recommend both. 
Book Reviewed: "Dear Justyce", Nic Stone
Other sources: 
“Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” NAACP, 10 July 2020, www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/. 
“A Statistical Look at Criminal Justice and Injustice.” American Bar Association, www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/human_rights_vol31_2004/winter2004/irr_hr_winter04_statistical/. 

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1 Comment
  • Busssy.Beee

    Submitted a review!! But, before you take a look at that, I just want to say that you should be proud of what you written! It was a great read!


    over 1 year ago