Author: Nic Stone
Narrator: Dion Graham
Release Date: September 29/20
Page Length: 288 pages, Audiobook 4 hrs. 45 min.
I first became familiar with author Nic Stone when I was part of Jennifer LaGuardia’s and Jennifer Northrup’s #2jennsbookclub, and one of the selections to read was her debut, Dear Martin. I listened to the audiobook of Dear Martin narrated by Dion Graham, and my white-privileged eyes became wide open as the story unfolded. As much as I thought Dear Martin is a book that needed to be read and unpacked with young adults and adults, I believe Dear Justyce is on an even higher plane because it will connect to more readers personally as it either reflects their own story or, of someone they know. It is not necessary to read Dear Martin first, but it will provide more context to Dear Justyce.
Right from the opening, we hear Nic Stone introducing in her voice Dear Reader and how she never intended to write this book. It came about from a series of texts from some boys that she had met writing Dear Martin. The boys shared the fact that they are so very different from Justyce, how they needed their story told and how Nic Stone was their voice. From there, she realized that there was a character from Dear Martin, Vernelle LaQuan Bank Jr., who had a story that readers needed to hear.
Similar in format to Dear Martin, Vernelle LaQuan Bank Jr. (known as Quan) reveals his story in a series of flashbacks and letters. This time the letters’ recipient is Justyce, who now is in law school. Quan is in a holding cell awaiting trial for the murder of a police officer, although innocent. As he sits in jail, we see the injustice of all the systems that failed to support him and countless other Black kids that leads to where he sits now.
Dion Graham’s narrated both books that added to the story as he created a variety of different voices and used his pacing to create tension and to indicate how quickly events were happening. The various inflections used in specific characters also made certain scenes more dynamic. As I listened, you could hear the many emotions that Quan experienced and felt like you were listening to dialogue from a movie as hard as it was to listen to Quan’s story.
Gutwrenching and hard to read because it so accurately portrays what is happening today and not just in America. It is yet another wake-up call to expose the systemic racism that exists and begs us to change our ways so that Quan’s story is fictional rather than being almost biographical.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Gr. 8+