Review by Booklist Review
LaQuan Banks, a background character in 2017's Dear Martin, takes center stage in this sequel, as readers meet him in a youth detention center where he's serving time for the alleged murder of a police officer. Through written correspondence, Quan develops a bond with Dear Martin's Justyce, now a prelaw student at Yale, whose letters to Dr. King inspired Quan. As he struggles in detention to earn his diploma and escape an oppressive cycle, Quan questions how he and Justyce ended up so differently; was it "pure choice" or circumstance? While Dear Martin is a about a young Black man with opportunity, Dear Justyce is about the Black and POC teenagers and adults who never had those opportunities. Through visceral storytelling that covers various stages of Quan's life, Stone writes of individual, interpersonal, and community trauma; struggling familial relationships; and the dangerous stereotypes and assumptions that result in youth of color, specifically Black kids, being incarcerated, wrongly accused, killed, or otherwise targeted. In a stylized work that makes use of font changes, embedded text, screenplay format, and more, Quan's genuinely youthful voice shines through, and it's more than just fiction. Stone is shedding light on the lives of those incarcerated: they're not nameless; they're not all the same; they are unique, valuable human beings who deserve to have their stories shared. An unforgettable tour de force of social-justice and activist literature.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Stone tackles the American juvenile justice system and its unjust persecution of Black boys in this gritty, powerful sequel to Dear Martin. Atlanta 17-year-old Vernell LaQuan Banks Jr., called "Quan," finds himself in the Fulton Regional Youth Detention Center after being coerced into confessing to the murder of a cop. Through a series of letters to his friend, Yale pre-law student Justyce McAllister, Quan recounts his abusive home life and the desperate decisions that ultimately led to his arrest. After a hopeful revelation, Justyce enlists the help of his friend Jared Christensen; his girlfriend, Sarah-Jane Friedman; and SJ's attorney mother to find a way to free Quan. Through Quan's eyes, readers experience the hopelessness and solitude that have consumed his life since the traumatic arrest of his father when he was 11. Although the narrative's letters, snapshots, flashbacks, and the midpoint addition of a second narrator may muddle the timeline, Quan's unflinching honesty and vulnerability make him a protagonist readers will unequivocally empathize with. Stone deftly explores systemic oppression and interrogates the notion of justice, particularly in how Black boys are often treated as adults and lost in the school-to-prison pipeline. Ages 14--up. Agent: Rena Rossner, the Deborah Harris Agency. (Sept.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up--Vernell LaQuan Banks Jr. is awaiting a court date in a juvenile detention center. Quan was with his friends when an interaction with a couple of police officers went sideways. Now a police officer is dead and Quan's memory of the incident is clouded by a panic attack. Although he didn't commit the crime, he knows that his previous arrest record makes him guilty in the eyes of not only the law, but also his mother. Quan's biggest supporter was Vernell LaQuan Banks Sr., but his father is in jail and can't help push Quan towards a different, brighter future. The one friend who seems to believe in him is Justyce McAllister. The two boys bonded over their fractured home lives and the love of reading. An older brother, Quan struggles to be there for his younger siblings even as his own support system slowly dissolves. Now Quan is examining all of the choices made for him, and by him, in a series of letters to Justyce. As his friendship with Justyce strengthens, he begins to see that healthier support systems can be rebuilt. This book expands the conversation about systemic racism to include young men of color who don't fit the demands of respectability politics. The circumstances that surround them and the lack of a support system for them often limits their choices. VERDICT This novel is perfect for public and school libraries who are looking to offer a nuanced perspective on the juvenile justice system.--Desiree Thomas, Worthington Lib., OH
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review
In this sequel to Dear Martin (rev. 11/17), we are reintroduced to Quan, best friend of that book's protagonist. Dear Justyce opens with a flashback to Quan and Justyce's (then aged nine and ten) first meeting at a park where Quan has run to escape his mother's abusive boyfriend. The novel then fast-forwards to an incarcerated Quan, remembering the day his father was arrested two years after that meeting. While in custody, Quan writes to Justyce at Yale. Through "snapshots" and letters we learn the circumstances and decisions that led to Quan's arrest as well as the ups and downs of his friendship with Justyce. When Quan professes that he didn't commit the crime for which he was incarcerated, Justyce becomes committed to clearing his name. While we learn Quan's story largely through third-person narration, including some interspersed poetic text, it is the letters Quan writes to Justyce that are most powerful. Teens can relate to the feelings of alienation, loneliness, and confusion that lead Quan to make many of the choices that he does, even as the book explores the various ways our current justice system disenfranchises young people of color. Nicholl Denice Montgomery November/December 2020 p.113(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
The deck is stacked against incarcerated 16-year-old Quan as he faces up to 20 years in prison in this sequel to the New York Times bestseller Dear Martin (2017). With his father in prison, Quan works hard to excel in school, avoid his mother's abusive boyfriend, and keep his siblings from going hungry. Bright but burdened, Quan eventually begins committing petty crimes and lands in a youth detention center. Through Quan, Stone brilliantly portrays the voices of incarcerated Black youth, their trauma, hopelessness, and awareness of how fraught and fragile their futures are due to racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Quan sees a 12-year-old Black boy locked up for a year for merely associating with gang members while a 17-year-old White boy who stabbed his father eight times serves only 60 days. But Quan isn't left to fight for his freedom alone; his best friend, Justyce, makes sure of that. Quan's story is eloquently told in part through letters he writes to Justyce, who is attending college at Yale. Fans of the previous volume and new readers alike won't want to put down this unforgettable volume until they learn Quan's fate. A powerful, raw must-read told through the lens of a Black boy ensnared by our broken criminal justice system. (author's note) (Fiction. 12-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.