Pub. Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Justyce McAllister is top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He is eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident has Justyce spooked. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous—and white—debate partner he wishes he didn’t have a thing for.
Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do Dr. King’s teachings hold up in the modern world? Justyce isn’t so sure.
Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Way up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny get caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. The truth of what happened that night—some would kill to know. Justyce is dying to forget.
DEAR MARTIN (AKA DR. KING),
First and foremost, please know I mean you no disrespect with the whole “Martin” thing. I studied you and your teachings for a project in tenth grade, so it feels most natural to interact with you as a homie. Hope you don’t mind that.
Quick intro: My name is Justyce McAllister. I’m a 17-year- old high school senior and full-scholarship student at Braselton Preparatory Academy in Atlanta, Georgia.
I’m ranked fourth in my graduating class of 83, I’m the captain of the debate team, I scored a 1560 and a 34 on my SATs and ACTs respectively, and despite growing up in a
“bad” area (not too far from your old stomping grounds), I have a future ahead of me that will likely include an Ivy League education, an eventual law degree, and a career in public policy.
Sadly, during the wee hours of this morning, literally none of that mattered.
Long story short, I tried to do a good deed and wound up on the ground in handcuffs. And despite the fact that my ex-girl was visibly drunk off her ass, excuse my language, I apparently looked so menacing in my prep school hoodie, the cop who cuffed me called for backup.
The craziest part is while I thought everything would be cool as soon as her parents got there, no matter what they told the cops, these dudes would not release me.
Mr. Taylor offered to call my mom, but the cops made it
clear that since I’m 17, I’m considered an adult when placed under arrest—aka there was nothing Mama could do.
Mr. Taylor wound up calling my friend SJ’s mom, Mrs. Friedman—an attorney—and she had to come bark a bunch of legal hoo-ha in the cops’ faces before they’d undo the cuffs. By the time they finally let me go, the sun was coming up.
It’d been hours, Martin.
Mrs. F didn’t say a whole lot as she drove me to my dorm, but she made me promise to go by the infirmary and get some cold packs for my swollen wrists. I called my mama to tell her what happened, and she said she’ll file a complaint first thing in the morning. But I doubt it’ll do any good.
Frankly, I’m not real sure what to feel. Never thought I’d be in this kind of situation. There was this kid, Shemar Carson . . . black dude, my age, shot and killed in Nevada by this white cop back in June. The details are hazy since there weren’t any witnesses, but what’s clear is this cop shot an unarmed kid. Four times. Even fishier, according to the medical examiners, there was a two-hour gap between the estimated time of death and when the cop called it in.
Before The Incident last night, I hadn’t really thought much about it. There’s a lot of conflicting information, so it’s hard to know what to believe. Shemar’s family and friends say he was a good dude, headed to college, active in his youth group . . . but the cop claims he caught Shemar trying to steal a car. A scuffle ensued (allegedly), and according to the police report, Shemar tried to grab the cop’s gun, so the cop shot Shemar in self-defense.
I dunno. I’ve seen some pictures of Shemar Carson, and he did have kind of a thuggish appearance. In a way, I guess I thought I didn’t really need to concern myself with this type of thing because compared to him, I don’t come across as “threatening,” you know? I don’t sag my pants or wear my clothes super big. I go to a good school, and have goals and vision and “a great head on my shoulders,” as Mama likes to say.
Yeah, I grew up in a rough area, but I know I’m a good dude, Martin. I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I’d be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know? Really hard to swallow that I was wrong.
All I can think now is “How different would things have gone had I not been a black guy?” I know initially the cop could only go by what he saw (which prolly did seem a little sketchy), but I’ve never had my character challenged like that before.
Last night changed me. I don’t wanna walk around all pissed off and looking for problems, but I know I can’t continue to pretend nothing’s wrong. Yeah, there are no more “colored” water fountains, and it’s supposed to be illegal to discriminate, but if I can be forced to sit on the
concrete in too-tight cuffs when I’ve done nothing wrong, it’s clear there’s an issue. That things aren’t as equal as folks say they are.
I need to pay more attention, Martin. Start really seeing stuff and writing it down. Figure out what to do with it. That’s why I’m writing to you. You faced way worse shi—I mean stuff than sitting in handcuffs for a few hours, but you stuck to your guns . . . Well, your lack thereof, actually.
I wanna try to live like you. Do what you would do. See where it gets me.
My wrist is killing me, so I have to stop writing now, but thanks for hearing me out.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of DEAR MARTIN, US Only.
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Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.
You can find her goofing off and/or fangirling over her husband and sons on most social media platforms as @getnicced.