‘Dear Martin: A Novel’ is a must-read for teens

When Justyce McAllister saw his ex-girlfriend Melo next to her car, drunk and half-dressed, he knew there was no way she could drive herself home, and he wasn’t about to leave her in that neighborhood. She hollered when he took her keys. She smacked him as he poured her into the passenger seat, which was nothing compared to what happened when the cops stopped and cuffed him, thinking he was hurting Mel, whose skin was more light than his was black.

He’d never forget the feel of those cuffs, which led him to a search for understanding through the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. Justyce felt that if he could live like Martin, he might be able to tolerate things like being guilty until proven innocent because of his race.

He might also be able to withstand guys like Jared, who was in Justyce’s debate class. From his head to his toes, Jared was racist, hiding behind fake equality in his pathetic arguments and complaints about reverse discrimination.

Couldn’t everybody see through people like that?

No, Manny couldn’t. Manny was Justyce’s best friend, but he was Jared’s friend, too, which was something Justyce couldn’t understand. He didn’t get why Manny agreed with Jared’s comments or why he hung out with Jared’s crowd. Manny was black. He had a cousin who was gang-banging, but he stayed friends with a fool.

What can you say about a book that surprises, gives you goosebumps, makes you happy, and then makes you sad?

Through an observant narrator and the spot-on voice of a teenage boy, “Dear Martin” author Nic Stone takes national news and gently twists it into a believable tale that’s smooth and somewhat unruffled he drops a gigantic bomb into the story. If your teen hasn’t fallen for her perfectly-created characters by that point, she’ll have their complete attention there. What happens next, and after that is unexpected — don’t even try to guess — and it’ll have your teen riveted and turning pages. Indeed, they’ll absolutely need to know how this tale ends and how a man who’s been dead nearly five decades impacted it.

“Dear Martin” is a winner.

“Dear Martin: A Novel,” by Nic Stone [211 pages, 2017, $17.99].

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill with two dogs and 12,000 books.