By: Crown Books for Young Readers
After a very traumatic interaction with handcuffs and a gun, Justyce McAllister decides to undertake a personal social experiment by writing letters to the late Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) as a means of understanding today’s prevalent social issue of racism and how MLK may have chose to deal with those situations when he was alive in the 50’s.
Justyce was not a stereotypical African-American teenager who grew up in hardship of gangs, drugs, and violence. Justyce McAllister was a hard-working twelfth grader with great grades, good friends, and an awesome anticipation for his own future. Until one night, while he’s on his way to help his “super hot-mixed-ethnic-but-looks-white” ex-girlfriend avoid an accident, after she’s decided to drink far too much and was going to drive herself home. As Justyce was finishing up the process of strapping the very drunk girl into the backseat of her own car, a police car rolls up behind the car – and thus the beginning of Justyce’s confused attempt to understand this new perspective on how society often sees a young black man even if there is no reason to assume dis-trustfulness.
I enjoyed this book. I saw it recommended by somebody on Twitter and thought it would be a great read after my finals. Nic Stone wrote well and developed the character of Justyce dramatically, especially the before and after of his experience and then when he loses his best friend to a gun. Leaving the story open to be interpreted as ‘not everything is as it seems’, but also not every obvious choice is the right one. Or in Justyce’s case, just because somebody has promised that joining a gang because they may understand the struggle of being a black man in society doesn’t necessarily solve the actual problem of why is it still an issue that society views black men as an issue? Justyce chose to continue being the good person he knows he is and strive to be the best representation of himself for him and his family; by going to Yale, continuing his relationship with a girl that he loves, and persist.