by Nic Stone
“It’s not like I didn’t try. I remember this one time a teacher accused me of cheating because I got a good grade on a test. And my mama believed HIM. I know I also told you about the one prosecutor who called me a ‘career criminal’ the second time I got arrested. I’d stolen one of this white dude’s TWO phones. And only because I hoped to sell it so I could get my brother and sister some new shoes for school.”
Ratings & Reviews
Book Grade: A
Dear Justyce tells the heartbreaking story of a young man who faced opposition at every turn. He was incarcerated for something that he did not do, but took the time to better himself while awaiting a trial that would hopefully reveal the truth. Quan is refreshingly honest – he admits to all the mistakes that he made and doesn’t blame anyone but himself for the actions that led him to where he is today. He gave a false confession and admits that that was his decision alone – he did what he felt he had to do in this situation.
This book manages to look at a hot button issue that is relevant today, but doesn’t politicize it – readers aren’t forced to take sides, but rather see the plight of Quan as the central focus that everyone can rally around. The characters speak for themselves and acknowledge their own actions, thoughts, and feelings.
Nic Stone beautifully blends narrative portions with letters, allowing the readers to feel fully immersed in the story. It is hard not to root for Quan as he works to overcome obstacles in every direction.
Movie Rating: R
Dear Justyce may be a short novel, but it is far from an easy read. There are difficult subjects and difficult language on the pages. Violent scenes are mentioned, but they are not the focus of the novel. This book is certainly more suitable for a more mature reader who can handle frank discussions of gang violence, poverty, and prison. None of the tough stuff is thrown in gratuitously – every bit is important in this compelling novel – but readers should be prepared to engage in a book that might make them feel uncomfortable.
Would I Buy This for My Library: Yes
Dear Justyce is a well written follow up to the immensely popular Dear Martin. The angle, however, is completely different, and readers don’t have to have read the first book to appreciate the second. This gentle, but honest introduction to youth incarceration and wrongful convictions might appeal to more students than the first book in the series simply because of the frankness and openness of Quan’s character.
Quan has had a rough life. He saw his dad arrested and has been forced to live in an unhealthy situation with his mom and her boyfriend – both of whom use drugs. He has struggled with poverty and had no one to believe in him. After a few minor run-ins with the law, Quan finds the family he had been searching for in a local gang. His decision to spend time with the Black Jihadi members leads to the death of a policeman – a shooting that Quan is found guilty of in spite of a lack of evidence.
Dear Justyce tells Quan’s story through snapshots of the past, letters to Justyce (the main character in Nic Stone’s Dear Martin), and narrative details. Readers come to understand the world in which Quan grew up and see him as he searches for a way to make things right. With brutal honesty, Quan confesses to his mistakes, but seeks help for a crime he didn’t commit. Will Justyce, SJ, and their network of allies be able to help this young man who has everything stacked against him?
This brief, timely, and compelling book does a lovely job of fictionalizing the plight of the wrongly imprisoned, especially those who have no one to advocate for them.
Book Talk Questions:
- When did Quan and Justyce first meet? How were their personalities reflected even in that first meeting?
- Describe Quan’s dad’s arrest. How does that change his life?
- What does Quan do that gets him arrested for the first time? Why is he surprised and frustrated by his own actions?
- What is the relationship between Doc and Quan? What does Doc help Quan to do and how does this change the trajectory of Quan’s life?
- Justyce is determined to overturn Quan’s case. What is he relying on? What does he demand Quan do?
- What does Quan find about the money that he sent to the Black Jihad?
A Perfect Read for Fans Of…
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone
- Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson
- Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi