A fascinating read that really opened my eyes to some of the issues around race relations in the US. I did think it was maybe a little on the short side but well worth reading.
Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.
Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.
Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As an ever so slightly older than teenage white woman who lives in a small town in Scotland I don’t think this book was really aimed at me, and I suspect I didn’t “get” it in the same way it’s intended audience would, but I did find it an absolutely fascinating read. My experience of the impact of racial stereotyping is very limited and gun violence isn’t really a thing here (although gang culture is) so this really opened my eyes and highlighted a lot of the issues in a very real and natural way.
At only 210 pages, I did find it a surprisingly quick read (I finished it within a couple of hours) but while I appreciated the fast pace and ease of reading it I think I would have preferred a little more depth and detail. It moves at such a speed that I never felt connected to the characters or emotionally invested in the story. That’s not to say that this is not an emotional read (there were a few truly heartbreaking moments) but I think if there had been more background to the characters and more relationship building I would have felt so much more.
As far as main character Justyce goes I can’t say that I ever connected to or fully understood him and his actions although I suspect this is likely more to do with our relative backgrounds and ages rather than the writing as he is very convincingly portrayed by the author. In fact I think the author did a brilliant job of portraying all of the characters in this story and the dialogue and interactions between them felt especially real.
I also have to give the author praise for presenting the issues in a very clever way so that they’re clearly demonstrated without the story ever becoming preachy. The use of Justyce’s letters to Martin Luther King combined with the discussions at the debate club and his experiences were ideal ways of getting points across and combining both the facts/statistics and the emotional impact on Justyce in a natural way. I do think the author could have gone deeper in certain areas and developed them a little further but there is no doubting that the key messages come across loud and clear.
This is a book with a lot of buzz around it and a very important message so I am glad to have been given the opportunity to read it. It’s definitely one I would recommend.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. All views are, as always, my own.