Dear Martin Book Summary, by Nic Stone

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1-Page Summary of Dear Martin

Dear Martin by Nic Stone is a realistic fiction book that takes place in the United States. It depicts identity, racism, and adolescence through the eyes of an African American teenager named Justyce McAllister. The story also focuses on his relationship with his father, who was killed when he was younger. Dear Martin was named as a finalist for the William C. Morris award and has been praised by critics such as Kirkus Reviews and Booklist Online.

The novel follows Justyce McAllister, a 17-year-old black student who struggles with being a minority in his prep school. Despite the fact that he has a rough background and is different from most of the students at Braselton Prep, he becomes good friends with another black student named Manny Rivers. He also does well for himself academically and socially until one day when he gets arrested for something that wasn’t his fault because of racism. When people put him on trial without even asking what happened, it makes him feel like society doesn’t care about how hard African Americans have to work just to get by. But thanks to Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s letters, which are written as if they were written specifically for him, Justyce realizes that his life isn’t over yet and moves past this event so he can move forward into adulthood and be successful someday.

The novel, Dear Martin begins before Justyce’s arrest. A senior at the elite school Braselton, he excels in his studies and is slated to become class valedictorian. He also has a standing offer to attend Yale University. However, his motivation for excelling stems from struggles at home: His family is poor and lives in a low-income neighborhood with high crime rates. Although he doesn’t talk about it much, Justyce also feels that people are prejudiced against him because of the color of his skin (in this case white).

Not long before graduation, Justyce and Manny are driving in a predominantly white area when they get stopped by an off-duty cop. They’re arguing about how easy it is for Manny to pass as “normal” at Braselton because of his wealthy father. The argument gets out of hand, and they attract the attention of an undercover cop who thinks something criminal is going on. He reacts based on racial bias, which causes him to draw his gun and shoot Manny dead.

After the death of his best friend, Justyce starts to realize that wealth and race do not protect black people from racism. Also, he realizes that many African Americans are treated unfairly by the justice system because they don’t have a lot of money. He is also charged with murder even though it was clear that he did not commit any crime. These problems make him turn to Dr. King’s writings for help and comfort as well as inspiration to continue fighting against injustice in America.

The book Dear Martin ends on a hopeful note, suggesting that the protagonist’s shift in consciousness is exactly what prepares him to take on the world beyond adolescence with a sharper perspective of how racial bias impacts society. Stone suggests that an integral part of one’s coming-of-age is to learn to weigh progress toward social justice more highly than any personal aspiration.

Full Summary of Dear Martin

Overall Summary

Seventeen year old Justyce McAllister is walking through a wealthy neighborhood outside Atlanta, Georgia. He’s on his way to find Melo, his ex-girlfriend who he knows has been drinking. He wants to make sure she won’t drive drunk but when he finds her she tells him to go away and that makes him even more concerned for her safety so he takes her keys and puts her in the backseat of the car. Suddenly a police officer named Tommy Castillo arrives and grabs Justyce before punching him in the face telling him not to say anything because it was clear that he just wanted some action with “the pretty white girl”.

In the book, Nic Stone gives readers a glimpse of Justyce’s diary. In it, he writes a letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., explaining how much he admires him and his work. He introduces himself as a student at Braselton Preparatory Academy who is ranked fourth in his class, is captain of the debate team, has high test scores and believes that he has a bright future despite growing up in “a bad area.” Unfortunately though, none of this mattered when Officer Castillo arrested him last night because he was let go after being detained for hours on end even though Justyce never thought that something like this would happen to him or any other black boy/man in America.

Justyce returns to school. Recently, a grand jury failed to indict the police officer that killed Shemar. Justyce feels his friend’s pain from experiencing a similar situation and wonders if there could have been more justice for him or Officer Castillo in their cases with such an outcome. What’s worse is he finds out that Manny got some bad news: His cousin Quan shot another cop the other night and is now awaiting trial in juvenile detention, due to be tried as an adult on charges of aggravated assault against an officer because of Officer Schwartz saving his life earlier that day.

In his Societal Evolution class, Justyce’s favorite teacher, Doc, asks the class if they think racial equality is a thing of the past. Everyone in the room except for three people are white. The black students and Justyce argue that racism still exists while Jared claims it doesn’t because he has never experienced it himself. Sarah-Jane tries to explain that ignoring inequality won’t make it go away but Jared disagrees with her argument.

After class, Justyce overhears Jared talking with his friends about racial inequality. He expresses anger at the idea that it still exists and thinks that they live in a color-blind society because he doesn’t see race. His friend Manny is hesitant to agree but eventually goes along with their chant of “Equality!” Justyce resents this casual racism, especially since Jared’s friend Manny went along with it.

Jared suggests that they dress in stereotypical costumes for Halloween. Justyce is reluctant, but he eventually agrees to act like a “thug” while Manny goes as the “token black guy.” Meanwhile, Jared himself dresses up as a “Yuppie/Politician.” However, what really bothered Justyce was when Blake wore an authentic KKK costume that seemingly offended everyone at the party. Although Justyce didn’t want to appear overly “sensitive,” he decided against saying anything because it would make him look bad around his friends who were trying to have fun.

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Justyce and SJ have always been friends, but lately he’s developed stronger feelings for her. He doesn’t know how to approach the issue because he has a boyfriend named Melo. Still, he feels comfortable enough to call her when something big happens in his life—such as being accepted into Yale University early decision.

The next day, Jared is clearly angry during a class discussion. He raises his hand to make a point about affirmative action and argues that it discriminates against the majority. Then he states that Justyce only got into Yale because of affirmative action even though he has better scores than him. When Justyce asks how he knows this, Jared says that he just assumed it from looking at their scores. The two boys compare results and discover they have similar ones so Jared suggests that Justyce only got in because Yale needs to fill its quota of black students with him.

Justyce focuses on the upcoming debate tournament, spending most of his time with SJ. Manny tries to get him to date her, but he refuses because his mother wouldn’t approve. However, he can’t conceal his feelings any longer when they triumphantly win the tournament. He leans in to kiss her backstage but she backs away and leaves, avoiding him for weeks after that night. During this time another unarmed black teenager is shot and killed by a white police officer which upsets Justyce so much that he drinks heavily at a party hosted by Blake’s house that night despite warnings from Manny about pacing himself. When they arrive at the party there are racist decorations and other paraphernalia around the house. Worse yet Blake approaches them both while making racist comments and slurs towards Manny which Justyce challenges him on it only for Blake to act like it isn’t a big deal as well as Jared entering into their conversation joking about how Justyce is “from the hood” causing Justyce to hit Jared before starting a fight dragging Manny into it whereupon an argument between them occurs over whether or not white people should be held accountable for their actions leading up until finally having enough of being treated differently from everyone else including all of his friends who always let off white people instead of holding them responsible for what they’ve done leading up until then resulting in telling off everybody present including all those who have been acting like nothing was wrong with anything along with blaming himself for letting things go too far saying that if anybody had ever said something like what happened tonight would happen then maybe everything wouldn’t have gotten out control along with admitting that he didn’t feel comfortable around any of these people anymore even though they were supposed to be his friends while also feeling guilty over getting mad at Manny earlier during which point Teddy arrives just in time preventing further escalation before leaving together afterward following this whole mess once again leaving behind what used to be known as home…

Manny and Jared get in a fight. Manny goes to tell the coach he wants off the team, but when he’s there, Jared makes fun of him for quitting because his father owns the school. Angry at this comment, he punches Jared.

Manny and Justyce are friends. One weekend, Manny is driving Justyce to go hiking when he gets into an argument with Jared’s family over hitting Jared. He doesn’t want to go hiking anymore, so they drive around in his Range Rover listening to music. At a stoplight, the light turns green but the car next to them doesn’t move. The driver stares angrily at Manny and Justyce until they’re able to start moving again. They don’t see him again after that because there’s another stoplight ahead of them where he pulls up beside them and tells them their music is too loud even though it isn’t very loud at all. Instead of turning down the volume on the radio like the man asks, Manny turns it up instead which makes him angry enough for him to call them n-words while pulling out a gun from his glove compartment and firing shots into their vehicle where one shot hits Manny fatally wounding him before escaping without being caught by police who later reveal his name as Garrett Tison, an off duty police officer whose son was killed during gang violence ten years earlier when he was only 16 years old making this incident probably racially motivated murder rather than manslaughter or some other form of accidental killing (euthanasia).

After Manny’s funeral, his parents invite Justyce to their house and tell him that Quan wants to see him. Quan grew up in the same neighborhood as Justyce, so he agrees to see Quan. When he visits, Quan tells him that Garrett Tison was Officer Castillo’s partner. He also tells Justyce about Martel and Black Jihad.

In the coming days, Justyce tries to put the idea of calling Martel out of his mind. However, SJ is still ignoring him, and he has nobody else to turn to. He takes a bus over to Martel’s house where he meets up with members of the Black Jihad before listening to Martel talk about black people in America. Everything that Martel says makes sense, but then Justyce sees a sawed-off shotgun and remembers that joining the Black Jihad would mean entering into a life of violence. At this moment other members rush in and show him a video clip on television where Blake talks about him claiming that he attacked Blake at his party which ultimately throws his moral character into question as well as stoking debate across all media platforms whether or not Justyce did something wrong by attacking Officer Tison. Mortified, Justyce quickly leaves Martel’s house and goes straight over to SJ’s home where they are alone together in her room for the first time since they’ve been friends. Once there he tells her how much trouble he is in because she hasn’t talked with him since their fight at school when she told everyone what happened between them making it impossible for anyone from their old group of friends who know what really happened (which includes Manny) can believe anything else but what was said by those now against them even if they could prove it wasn’t true because no one wants an unpopular person like Manny around anymore anyway so why should anyone risk being called unpopular themselves simply because someone like Manny needs help? Finally after crying on her shoulder for some time telling her how bad things have gotten since everything went down she lets him know that she feels exactly the same way about having feelings for each other too which makes both feel happy again finally knowing they’re not alone anymore either emotionally or otherwise giving them hope once more despite all odds being stacked against them including having nowhere left to go except maybe back home which neither want nor think will be any better than staying here trying things out just one more time hoping things might somehow work out differently next time around anyway especially if only given half a chance…

Meanwhile, the media continues to speculate about Justyce and Manny’s involvement in Garrett Tison’s death. The Black Jihad set fire to his house, but investigators don’t believe them when they say that Justyce was involved. He has to testify against Tison in court, which makes him look bad when the defense attorney brings up the fact that he got drunk and hit Jared and Blake at Blake’s party. She also mentions that he met with members of the Black Jihad. As a result, Tison is only found guilty of three charges instead of four—a felony murder charge isn’t included. Several days after the trial ends, prisoners kill him in jail.

A few weeks later, Justyce goes to Yale and is disappointed when he gets paired with a roommate who is racist. He’s still dating SJ, but SJ attends Columbia University. Jared also goes to Yale, though they don’t see each other often. At Christmastime, Justyce goes home to visit his dad’s grave at the cemetery where Manny was buried. There he finds Jared grieving for his dead friend and tells him that he misses Manny too. They reconcile their differences as friends and become close again back at school in New Haven.

Jared decides to go into civil rights law because of how much it meant to him that Justyce helped save his life by giving up some of his own blood so that the transfusion could be done quickly enough for Jared’s survival after the accident on I-95 involving the drunk driver who killed their friend Manny Ramirez (who was also a passenger in one of the cars involved).

Chapter 1

Justyce McAllister sees Melo Taylor drunkenly hunched over on the other side of the street. She’s Justyce’s ex-girlfriend and is currently “slumped” next to her car in a grocery store parking lot. When he crosses the street, she looks up and asks him why he’s there, but he ignores her question by asking if she is okay. He knows that Melo has been drinking again since their breakup, and now it seems like she wants to drive home drunk. Shrinking away from him, Melo asks why he cares how she is—a question that hurts him because he does care about her even though they broke up recently. After all, he walked an entire mile to make sure she was all right, leaving his best friend Manny’s house even though Manny criticized him for always bending over backwards for Melo (which includes walking an entire mile just to check on her). All of this was done so that “he could keep his drunken disaster of an ex from driving,” yet now she doesn’t want anything to do with him anymore.

Melo is drunk and Justyce tells her that he won’t let her drive because she gets dramatic when she’s drunk. He finds her beautiful, even though she looks like a mess. In fact, Melo is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen in his life. Feeling affectionate, he brushes some hair out of Melo’s face, but she rears back and spills everything from her purse on the ground. “Ugh! Where are my keys?!” She asks him for them and before they can find them, Justyce picks them up and tells Melo that he won’t let her drive home drunk again.

Unlocking his car, Justyce tries to put Melo in the backseat after she throws up on him. He borrows a hoodie from Manny and it has the name of their prestigious prep school on it. After taking off the sweatshirt, he picks her up again while she hits him. However, he tells her he isn’t going to let her drive home because she’s drunk. Finally, when they’re both inside the car and she falls asleep, a police officer approaches them. Justyce makes sure that Melo is buckled in so that it will be obvious to the officer that she can’t drive away while intoxicated.

Justyce is pulled out of the car and slammed face-down onto the hood. He’s handcuffed by a police officer named Castillo, who tells him to shut up. Justyce tries to explain that Melo was driving drunk but he ends up getting punched in the face by Castillo.

Officer Castillo is angry and upset at Justyce. He thinks that she’s a criminal who preyed on Melo, who had locked her keys in the car. However, if this was true, how would Melo have been able to put her in the backseat? Furthermore, it’s true that Melo presents as white but is actually half black. But instead of arguing with him about his assumptions and trying to reason with him calmly, Justyce keeps quiet so he doesn’t make things worse for himself and tries to be respectful. When he does speak up again, Officer Castillo tells him to “shut the fuck up.”

August 25

Dear Martin,

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I know that I’m not supposed to call you by your first name, but we studied you in sophomore year and now it feels natural to address you as a friend. My name is Justyce and I’m seventeen years old. I attend Braselton Preparatory Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. I have high SAT scores and am the captain of the debate team. Furthermore, my future looks bright because despite growing up in a bad area with poverty around me, none of that mattered when Officer Castillo arrested me last night for no reason at all!

Justyce was only trying to help Melo, but Officer Castillo arrested him. Mr. Taylor, who is a black professional football player and the father of Melo, arrived on the scene and tried to convince Officer Castillo to release his son, but he couldn’t do so. Mrs. Friedman then called Justyce’s friend SJ’s mother (who happens to be white) because she knew she could convince Officer Castillo to free Justyce. Now Justyce isn’t sure what he should feel about all of this happening in front of him.

Justyce tells Martin Luther King, Jr. about a recent incident in Nevada involving an unarmed black teenager named Shemar Carson. Justyce admits that there were no witnesses to the event, but he says it’s clear that a white police officer shot and killed Shemar without just cause. The cop said he found him stealing a car and when Shemar reached for his gun, the cop shot him four times. According to medical examiners, however, there was a two-hour gap between the estimated time of death and when the cop called it in.

In his diary, Justyce mentions that he has seen Shemar’s picture. He admits that he never thought he would have to worry about police brutality. In fact, in the past, he says that “he didn’t think anyone looked at him as a threat.” However, now that there is a case of police brutality against an innocent person who looks like him and attends the same school as him, it makes him realize how wrong people can be about someone based on their appearance.

Justyce writes in his diary that Castillo changed the way he thinks about life. He says that he needs to pay more attention and start seeing things instead of just looking at them. Justyce wants to learn from Dr. King, who was strong despite all the discrimination he faced, and apply those lessons to himself so he can be stronger than ever before as well. His wrists hurt because Castillo handcuffed him too tightly when they arrested him earlier in the day; however, this will not stop Justyce from achieving his goals or becoming a better person for it.

Dear Martin,

I’m here at Yale University. SJ and I drove all the way here together. She’s helping me settle in and then we’re going to drive her to Columbia where she’ll be starting school soon. While I’ve been living with my uncle, I’ve been rereading your letters from when you were a kid and wondering what exactly you wanted to accomplish by writing them. Now that I’m in college, it’s kind of crazy how out of place I feel around these people who are so different from me… My roommate is actually really nice but he seems uncomfortable with the idea of having a black person as his roomie… He doesn’t say anything rude or mean but he definitely acts differently around me than he does around other white guys on campus… It never ends does it? No matter what happens for the rest of my life there will always be situations like this where people judge me based on their preconceived ideas about race…

Justyce used to think that he wanted to be like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but now he realizes that this experiment failed because he wasn’t being true to himself or figuring out what he believes in. He still doesn’t know the answers, but at least he’s aware of his need for self-discovery and is vaguely hopeful about the future.

Chapter 2

One day, Justyce visits Manny at home. He is upset because he just got in a fight with Melo and had to spend three hours in handcuffs. He also mentions that they made up again. Hearing this, Manny tells him not to get back together with her because she cheated on him before. However, Justyce says it’s okay and asks his friend to drop the subject.

Manny refuses to let Melo off the hook for his behavior toward Justyce. Manny is trying to get Melo to see that he should stand up for Justyce, who was treated poorly by Castillo. However, Justyce doesn’t want Manny criticizing his girlfriend and won’t listen to what he has to say about it. Eventually their conversation gets interrupted when Dr. Rivers comes into the room and asks them what they would like for dinner. While she’s doing this, she receives a phone call from her sister-in-law saying that Quan has been arrested on murder charges because he shot a police officer in self defense.

Chapter 3

Justyce is very distracted in his class about societal evolution. He hears about the grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer who killed a black teenager. In addition, he thinks about how the other cop was an asshole like Castillo but was murdered by Justyce’s cousin and doesn’t know what to think of that. Justyce wonders if he would have even been indicted because of this?

Before Justyce sits down for his class on Societal Evolution, Doc, the teacher, calls him over. He’s Justyce’s favorite teacher because he has a PhD and is black. Before the other students show up to class, Doc warns Justyce that some of what will be discussed may hit home with him. “Feel free to sit it out,” he says. “You can leave the room if need be.”

After Justyce talked with Doc, Manny entered the class with his good friend Jared. Justyce didn’t like him or any of Manny’s friends because they were insensitive and often used inappropriate language. When Jared came in he said to Doc, “What’s up?” SJ responded by saying, “Oh god, Jared. Sit down somewhere.” SJ was a debate partner for Justyce and an incredible student who was also on the lacrosse team. After that question about equality in race relations from Doc, there was a tense silence but then Jared spoke up stating that we have reached full equality when it comes to race relations in this country.

There are people who claim certain inequalities exist because of race, but if you ask me, they’re just being divisive. One person claims that the reason for this is economic disparities and the fact that there are more minorities living in poverty than white people. In response to this comment, another person says something about a guy named Manny who drives a Range Rover. He then points out that his parents have worked hard for their money and it’s unfair to compare them with other families’ wealth when talking about equality among races.

SJ tells Jared that he hasn’t proven his point. She says, “You really think one example proves everything is equal? What about Justyce’s mom? She works sixty hours a week but doesn’t make as much as your dad does.” Hearing this, Justyce cuts her off and tells her to “chill out”. SJ apologizes for saying anything at all and then reiterates her point: One exception in an overall trend doesn’t mean very much. Then she says African Americans are still getting a raw deal even after slavery ended. To which, Jared replies, “Coulda fooled me.” SJ asks him if he watches the news at all because there was just another case of white people killing black people without any repercussions from the courts.

When SJ tells Jared that the courts “proved” the officer who killed Shemar wasn’t guilty of a crime, he replies by saying that Shemar had a criminal record. This infuriates SJ because she says that his criminal record only included one misdemeanor for possession of marijuana. “So?” Jared asks her. He then reminds her that he bought an ounce of weed two days ago and it’s none of her business how much money he spends on things like this. To wrap up her argument, SJ says to Jared, “I know you’d prefer to ignore this stuff because you benefit from it.”

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SJ is reminded that she’s white, but this doesn’t faze her. “I know I have it easier because of my skin color,” she says. Jared accuses SJ of jumping on the bandwagon to say that all whites are bad. She responds by saying people will never automatically think she or Jared are criminals before they even consider them as humans. Justyce leaves and goes to the bathroom after a long pause.

Chapter 4

After class, Jared complained to his friends about the conversation in Societal Evolution. He said that Doc was a bad teacher for suggesting racial inequality existed. Since Blake, Kyle and Tyler weren’t there, he explained what happened by saying that he might even have his father call the school to complain. His friend Manny joined in after a brief pause while they all laughed at SJ’s suggestion of racial inequality existing in society today because her mother had to spend time defending criminals on TV every night.

Still talking about SJ, Jared says that she’s clearly interested in Justyce. Kyle references the fact that Jared himself never had sex with SJ when they used to date, but Jared just says to shut up. He then goes on to say that he’s sick of people saying African Americans still have it so hard these days. Manny is his proof because his parents are both successful doctors who live in a nice neighborhood and send him to an elite private school. Blake agrees and all the white boys agree as well, saying things really are equal nowadays and we live in a color-blind society.

Kyle tells Manny that he doesn’t even see him as black. This makes Manny uncomfortable, but Justyce knows why. The police would view him differently if they saw him as a black man rather than just another student at their school. However, Kyle and the others don’t pick up on this fact and instead tell them to raise Perrier bottles in celebration of equality. All of them do except for Manny who pauses briefly before saying “Course I am bro.”

September 18

Martin, a boy who has been having a rough day at school, decides to go home. He thinks about how his classmates are insensitive and that he’s not going back to Braselton Prep. When he arrives at his mother’s house, she asks him why he’s there. Martin says it’s because of the Shemar Carson case and that everything feels like a losing battle for him right now.

Justyce’s mother asks him, “Isn’t being a black man hard?” He says that it is. When he tries to explain why, he admits that he feels like an outsider at Braselton Prep. Justyce has attended this school his whole high school career and still doesn’t feel like he fits in there. As she listens to her son complain about how difficult it is for him, his mother crosses her arms and eventually tells him that leaving the school won’t solve his problems. She tells him that coming home will not make things easier for him because if anything, it’ll be worse since people who know what struggle are all around here. It sounds as though Justyce thinks going back to school would help but when asked by his mother if this was true or not, she simply laughs at the idea of anyone thinking they could do such a thing as run away from their problems and just go back to school instead of facing them head on! She then gives her son some very good advice: get off the bus before you end up getting hurt by your own cowardice! On the ride back home after being kicked off the bus (by himself), Justyce realizes that running away isn’t an option; there’s nothing else left for him but “keep going.”

Chapter 5

It’s Halloween, and Justyce is at Manny’s house getting ready for a party with Jared, Kyle, Tyler and Blake. They’re all going to dress up as different stereotypes of people in society for the party. Jared has convinced them that it will be a “massive political statement about racial equality” and they should do this because he thinks it would be funny. Although Justyce was hesitant to agree with this idea initially (because he thought it seemed racist), Manny convinced him to go along with the plan anyway. Now, Justyce is dressed like a thug while Manny is dressed like the Token Black Guy in khakis and loafers. Jared is wearing polo shirt and pants while holding an umbrella which makes him look like a politician; Tyler looks like a surfer dude; Kyle looks like someone from Deliverance or something (he’s got on overalls); but worst of all, Blake decided to wear his KKK outfit again after everyone told him not to last year—and now his costume seems even more authentic than before!

The party is about to start, and everyone’s getting ready. Justyce has been assigned as Blake’s bodyguard for the night. He asks Jared what he thinks of Blake’s costume because it seems a bit racist. Jared says that Manny wants to talk with him in another room, so they go there together. Once inside, Manny tells Justyce that his costume is a little offensive and suggests they cancel the whole thing if he doesn’t want to wear it anymore. However, Justyce reassures him that everything will be fine once they get started with their plan to integrate the party by making sure no one gets hurt or offended by anything anyone else does at the party tonight.

A group of friends is driving in a car to a party. One of the guys, Blake, puts on a hood and makes an offensive gesture. Justyce realizes that they are going to get into trouble when he sees Blake punched five minutes later at the party. They are surrounded by people from another gang called Black Jihad run by Martel Montgomery who has crazy followers named Trey and Quan who belong to it.

Jared tries to explain that he and his friends are not disrespecting the Black Jihad members, but they’re told to be quiet. Manny then explains that they should listen to him, as he’s older than them. Trey tells Jared and Justyce that they need to stop being so intellectual about everything. He then addresses both of them by saying “Don’t get it twisted – you guys may be standing here with us now, but we still don’t like you.”

Jared is trying to leave the party when one of Trey’s gang members pulls out a gun. The guy with the gun tells Jared and his friends that they can’t go and that they should stay around. But Trey sarcastically says, “Hey guys, I’m sure you don’t want to hang out with these Black Jihad members because then you won’t be able to get in touch with white people for your ride up.”

November 1

“Dear Martin,” Justyce writes to Dr. King, explaining that he just got off the phone with SJ and they talked for hours. He rehashes what they said to each other, telling Dr. King that he filled SJ in on what happened at the party. At a certain point in the conversation, she admits that she spent the night thinking about Justyce, which makes things awkward between them for a moment before they get over it. Justyce then tells SJ that he feels slightly bad about having left the party since either way it went (either staying or leaving) would have been an expression of solidarity with his friends from high school who look like him but are not as fortunate as him financially and socially because of their race and/or skin color; however, when you add up all these factors—the fact that he chose to leave with a white man dressed as a Klansman—it makes this statement even stronger than if it were expressed by itself alone without any additional context or explanation attached to it…

Justyce admits to SJ that he had an ugly thought after the party. He wonders if Trey’s right about him needing white people to get ahead, and whether it has anything to do with why police think all black guys are up to no good. Justyce says that although he can debate this point forever, there is a way in which Trey is correct: they left the party with Jared and his friends, who were white.

Justyce is surprised at how easy it was to talk to SJ. He also feels guilty for not speaking up in class when Jared voiced his racist sentiments. Justyce writes about this experience in his diary, saying that he thinks SJ is “great” and attractive, but would be angry if she found out he was dating a white girl because of his mother’s beliefs on interracial relationships.

Chapter 6

After the Halloween incident, Justyce gets into Yale early decision. He calls SJ to tell her and she is ecstatic for him. He then realizes that he hasn’t told his mother yet and feels guilty about it. Still, he loves that SJ is so happy for him and when he tells her this she says “How could I not be?”

The next day, SJ sees Justyce in the dining hall. She jumps into his arms and wraps her legs around him. He reminds her that she’s wearing a skirt, but he enjoys it anyway. Then Melo comes over to talk to Justyce about school and their relationship. SJ leaves after talking with them for a bit because she has somewhere else to be. Melo asks if they’re dating, which he says no before explaining why not as well as saying that SJ is going to Columbia University instead of Yale like him.

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Chapter 7

Jared and Justyce are in a class together. Jared raises his hand to make an argument about affirmative action, which is the practice of providing special treatment for certain groups of people (usually minorities). He says that he got better grades than Justyce, but was rejected by Yale University. He believes this is because he’s white and Justyce is black. However, when they compare their grades, they’re almost exactly the same. Jared still doesn’t believe it’s possible that he didn’t get accepted into Yale based on his intelligence alone because it would mean that race has nothing to do with how intelligent someone can be.

Jared is upset that he didn’t get into Yale during early action. He thinks affirmative action gives minorities an unfair advantage over him, though he and Justyce might be equals in terms of qualifications. Still, there are other minorities who don’t have his qualifications and will get into the school before him because they’re black or Hispanic.

SJ reminds Jared that he goes to an elite school, and she points out that Justyce has a lot of disadvantages in life. SJ also says that people from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to do well on standardized tests because they’re expected not to. This leads them into severe test anxiety, so it’s not fair for colleges to judge applicants solely based on their scores.

SJ gives a point of view that Jared can’t argue with. So, he says, “whatever.” He thinks that no matter what college he goes to, it’s going to bother him when he sees minority students there because they don’t deserve to be at the school. The class is silent for a moment until Justyce speaks up and asks Jared if this is how it’s going to be.

December 13

Dear Martin, I’m having a hard time in high school because people always want to put me down. Just today, I went home and told my mother that I got into Yale University, but when I was walking home from the bus stop, some of the Black Jihad guys shouted at me and said things like “You’ll be back” and “Once you see them white folks don’t want yo black ass at they table.” It’s bad enough that this happened on the same day as Jared tried to undercut my acceptance into Yale by saying he did better than me. He assumed that just because he has more money than me (he comes from a rich family), he must have gotten higher grades than mine.

Justyce continues writing to Martin Luther King, Jr., saying that he feels like he’s climbing a mountain but two people are trying to push him down and another person is pulling his leg. He knows that there are only two of them, but it seems as if they’ll question his qualifications once he arrives at Yale University. Justyce asks Dr. King how this can be overcome because he feels defeated by the situation. In a postscript, Justyce writes about love triangles and says SJ likes him and Melo also likes him too so what should be done?

Chapter 8

One day, Manny asks Justyce if he’s dating SJ. He avoids answering the question for as long as possible, but then insists that they’re just friends. However, Manny tells him that his mother wouldn’t approve of them dating and though Justyce understands this to be true, he suggests that they should date anyway.

Manny says that he has a problem with the opposite of Justyce’s problem. He is afraid to go from an all-white environment to an all-black one overnight, since he doesn’t get much exposure to black people in his life. Manny thinks that it is stupid for Justyce not to date SJ because of her race when she seems like a nice girl who likes him and cares about him.

Chapter 9

For the next few weeks, Justyce is preparing for a debate tournament. He and SJ decide to enter an advanced pairs argumentation category that requires them to spend some time preparing arguments against racial profiling. The research in the 1990s predicted that black teen males would commit more crimes than other groups of people. However, this prediction was proven wrong and has been disproven by many studies since then. Nevertheless, SJ points out that these fears still exist today and are harming society because of it.

Justyce is reluctant to embrace SJ’s idea of presenting a debate topic about racial profiling. He doesn’t want to “be the black guy accused of ‘playing the race card’ at the state tournament.” However, he understands that SJ didn’t sleep for a week after what happened to him (Justyce). Because Justyce wants people to think and possibly change their minds, he agrees with SJ’s idea.

During the debate tournament, Justyce realizes that SJ was right to propose this topic. As he delivers his arguments, he realizes that it’s important for him to share his story with others. After they finish, they go backstage and see Doc, who’s proud of them. When they’re called back out again, they listen to the results while holding hands and keep doing so even after their names are announced as winners.

January 13

Martin, I think I’m losing it. Justyce writes in his diary about an interaction with SJ after the debate tournament. He went to kiss her and she turned away from him. She then asked if he had seen Doc, clearly wanting to avoid any conversation or contact with him for a while. Since then, she has completely avoided Martin and hasn’t spoken to him since that day. Now he can’t figure out what happened or why she acted like that towards him when they won the debate tournament together.

Chapter 10

Justyce is confused about SJ’s behavior, and he also has a lot on his mind because of the recent news that another unarmed black teenager was shot by police. He wants to talk to Doc about it but finds out that SJ is in there already crying. Justyce leaves when he sees her, and Doc asks him what’s going on.

Justyce goes back to his dorm room after the debate tournament and takes a nap. He is depressed, so he doesn’t feel like going out that night. Manny comes in stinking of body odor from basketball practice and convinces him to go out anyway. He says that Justyce shouldn’t be alone because it will make him worse off mentally than if he were with friends. Blake’s birthday party is tonight, and they are both going to it together.

Justyce drinks alcohol before the party despite being upset about SJ because Manny told him not to stay home by himself while he was feeling down about what happened during the debate tournament. At first, Justyce thinks this is a bad idea but eventually gets drunk anyway, crying at one point while Manny watches on without saying anything or helping him through his problems—he just shrugs when Justyce asks why people talk about things that happened at a small school like theirs.

Justyce tells Manny that he’s not just upset about SJ, but also Tavarrius. He can’t stop thinking about the fact that his own run-in with the police could have ended badly as well. Seeing how alcohol is affecting his friend, Manny tells him to slow down and enjoy the party more. Justyce gets frustrated because he thinks Manny cares more about “some stupid white boy party” than Tavarrius’ death.

Justyce is driving Manny to Blake’s party. It’s perhaps because he was drunk that it became especially hard for him to manage his anger upon seeing racist ornaments in the yard and minstrel posters in the basement. He also found it odd when Blake asked them to “wingman” for him with a girl at the party who has an amazing ass, as if they were dogs.

As soon as Blake finishes speaking, Manny’s smile fades. He knows that Justyce won’t be able to ignore what he just said. “Is this fool serious right now?” Justyce asks when Manny tells him to chill out. When Manny insists that he should chill, Justyce adds: “Hell nah! I’m not ’bouta chill.” Blake immediately rolls his eyes and says that none of the decorations are his and that his great-great-uncle used to be a minstrel performer. He also says it’s no big deal but Justyce refutes this by saying: “You coming over here asking us to help you use a black girl is a big deal, Blake.” That’s not even mentioning how casually he tosses around the N word like it’s nothing special or unique about it at all.

Blake continues to defend himself, saying that Justyce should know that no one can own words. He also points out that Justyce is smart enough to get into Yale and he shouldn’t be using the race card so freely. Manny tries to intervene but it’s too late and Justyce calls Blake a racist. Blake asks what’s wrong with people like him making everything about race when Manny says he isn’t considered “one of us people” either because he makes sense and doesn’t use the race card so much.

The boys approach Manny, Justyce and Blake. “Hey man!” Jared says to them. However, when he sees how angry Justyce is, he asks what crawled up his ass. “Fuck you, Jared!” Justyce replies angrily as Blake tells him not to disrespect his friends at the party. Manny suggests they leave but Justyce points out that Blake threatened him before asking if he was threatening him now too? Before Blake can reply, Jared laughs and says that B (Blake) better watch out because his friend grew up in the hood so he might call some of his homies who will ride through on your ass and bust a cap in your head.

Manny is bleeding out of his lip, but he’s too busy restraining Justyce. “What the hell is your problem?” Manny says to him. At this point, Justyce realizes that Manny isn’t taking his side and tells him that he’s just as bad as Jared and Blake. He goes on to explain how they disrespect them all the time, but Manny never does anything about it. In response, Manny says that this is because Jared and the rest of them are his friends. “You’re way too sensitive,” he tells Justyce before telling him that what happened was a joke; something for which there wasn’t any malicious intent behind it—that it was just meant to be funny. This doesn’t stop Justyce from leaving though; instead of making his way back to school (as he’d hoped), he makes sure no one will see him leave by going down a different road where no one can see or hear him crying until he gets home later in the day…

Justyce walks through rich neighborhoods by himself before Manny catches up to him in his Range Rover. He tells Justyce to get in, but he refuses and keeps walking the other way.

January 19

“Martin, I know you’re not here to help me. You’ve helped so many others, and now it’s my turn.” Justyce writes in his letter. “I’m just a black kid who doesn’t belong at an elite private school where everyone is rich and white,” he says. He also notes how difficult it is for him to see another young black man shot by the police on television, which serves as a constant reminder that people look at him as a threat instead of a human being. Finally, he asks Dr. King why blacks are told they aren’t respectable since they were brought over from Africa centuries ago when slavery was abolished?

Justyce asks Dr. King what he should do, because he doesn’t want to act like Manny and pretend there’s nothing wrong with a white guy using the n-word or exploiting black women. At the same time, though, he also doesn’t want to be accused of being too sensitive. What should Justyce do when his very identity is mocked?

Chapter 11

The next morning, Doc comes to Justyce’s dorm room. Justyce tells him to enter, but then he realizes that he fell asleep on the floor with his pants around his ankles the night before, after coming home from a party and writing in his diary. Now he’s hungover and Doc is suddenly there telling him to sit down in the desk chair while handing him a Gatorade and saying Manny called him asking for help because he was worried about Justyce. Although Justyce thinks that Manny tattled on him, Doc says this isn’t true by making it clear that he won’t punish Justyce for drinking.

Justyce explains to Doc that he messed up the night before. He wants to know if Manny told Doc about it, but when Doc asks him what happened, Justyce says that he’s not going to tell him unless Manny does. To prove this point, Doc plays a voicemail from Manny on his phone in which he just tells Doc that Justyce is “going through some things” and isn’t answering his phone. In the message, Manny asks Doc to check on Justyce and make sure everything is okay with him because they’re friends.

Justyce tells Doc that his “Dear Martin” project was going all right until last night. He says that his father, who died when he was eleven, had PTSD from being in the military. His father used to drink and fly into rages, hitting Justyce’s mother. One time he saw that there was nothing in his eyes as if he were on autopilot. Justyce thinks this might have happened again last night because of what Manny let Jared and Blake say about him being black at school yesterday during lunch period. Still, though, he can’t help but get angry when thinking about it even now.

Doc tells Justyce that he grew up like Manny. He was the only person of color in his school until he transferred to a city high school in tenth grade. In this new environment, everyone saw him as black and expected him to know all the slang and cultural references. The black kids expected him to act “black” and the white kids expected him to be their token friend. It was hard for Doc because he had spent most of his life being accepted by white people, but it’s easy for them not to acknowledge history when they’re accepting you.

Doc tells Justyce that he needs to be at peace with himself. He also says that people will disrespect him, but so what? It doesn’t matter if other people don’t like you or your ideas. At the same time, though, Justyce points out that it’s demoralizing to work hard and earn your way only to have other people suggest that you’re not worthy of their respect. Still, Doc sticks by his point about cornrows and how wearing them almost kept him from getting a job as a professor because the man who hired him thought they were too ghetto.

Chapter 12

On Tuesday, Justyce notices that Jared and Manny are absent. He sees Tyler, Kyle, and Blake grouped together in the parking lot whispering to one another with dirty looks thrown his way. That evening at dinner he sees Jared by his car with a bruised face. When he returns to his dorm room after school he finds Manny lying on his bed waiting for him. Immediately upon entering the room, Justyce apologizes but is cut off by Manny who says “Save it.” He admits that he meant everything he said but didn’t consider the bigger picture of their friendship. After some deliberation they decide to call it even since neither boy had each other’s best interests in mind when they were fighting over Kayla’s affections earlier in the year.

Justyce notices that Manny has a swollen lip, so he asks what happened. Manny explains that he went to a “festival” with his friends Jared and Blake on Saturday night. He admits that Justyce was right about him being a sellout because it made it hard for him to keep quiet when Jared said something insensitive at the festival. Finally, Jared made a racist joke about a black woman walking nearby, and Manny told him off. Instead of apologizing or even acknowledging his mistake, Jared rolled his eyes and called Manny oversensitive.

Manny continues his story about the swollen lip, saying that he decided to quit the basketball team after realizing that Justyce was right. He admits that he actually hates basketball, and only started playing because it’s what people expect of tall black kids at school. When he went to break the news to the coach, Jared was there as well, and made a racist joke about how Manny couldn’t quit until Massah set him free. Hearing this caused Manny to attack him again. Finishing this story, Manny thanks Justyce for helping him see things clearly by telling him about racism in America. He then embraces Justyce with a big hug of gratitude.

January 23

“I’ve got a lot on my mind,” Justyce writes in his diary. He explains that he and Manny had a talk with Mr. Rivers about the night before, when they were playing video games together. Mr. Rivers came into the basement where they were playing and sat between them on the couch to tell them something about what happened at work earlier that day: One of his employees called him a “racial slur.” The boys are shocked by this news, but Mr. Rivers says it’s true; he heard one of his employees call him an offensive name related to race or ethnicity earlier in the day, which reminded him of some recent trouble with Jared (who is African American). This makes him think back to when Manny was involved in another fight recently because someone called him names based on his race or ethnicity, too—and he feels like maybe this might be partially his fault for not talking frankly enough with Manny about racism before now.

Rivers says that he wasn’t surprised when his employee called him a racial slur. He knows that if he were in Manny’s shoes, it would have been surprising to hear the word come out of an employee’s mouth. However, Rivers himself has grown used to such treatment and has encountered racism on a regular basis despite being successful and powerful. “My point is,” Rivers says, “that there are many people like Jared in the world who will never change.” Therefore, Rivers encourages them not to fight with their fists but rather push through it since they now know what they’re up against.

Justyce is discouraged when he hears Mr. Rivers talk about racism. He admits in his diary that hearing Manny’s father talk about this despite his success was quite disheartening, because it made him realize that once he achieves something great, he won’t be able to escape racist BS. What does Justyce do with this?

Chapter 13-14

On a Saturday morning, Manny picks up Justyce in his Range Rover. They’re going to go hiking, but Manny is in a bad mood because he has just learned that Jared’s father is pressing charges against him for “assaulting” Jared. Because of this, he doesn’t feel like hiking, so Justyce agrees to simply drive around with him. As they cruise through town, they listen to one of their favorite rappers’ new song. The rapper says:

When Justyce and Manny are driving, they notice that a man in the next car is giving them an angry look. They turn down the music to hear what he has to say. When Manny realizes how uncomfortable this makes Justyce, he apologizes for bringing up Castillo’s name again. The driver of their car yells at them to turn down the music when they get stuck at another red light. Manny yells back, “I can’t hear you over all this loud music!”

The narrator suggests that Manny should tone down the music, but Manny refuses and says he’s tired of appeasing white people. He turns up the volume, and then an angry man screams at them to turn it down. This surprises Manny because he expected the man to be calm like his friend Justyce. However, Justyce urges him not to fight back and tells him they can just ignore the other driver. But before Justyce can change the song, he hears a loud bang from outside their car followed by two more deafening sounds on their side of the car.

Transcript from evening news, January 26

Good evening, and welcome to the Channel 5 News at 5. Two young men were shot this afternoon at a traffic light. One of them died on the way to the hospital. The other is in critical condition. As for who did it, we have identified him as Garrett Tison, an off-duty police officer (who was riding in his car with his wife).

February 1

“Dear Martin,” Justyce writes in his diary. “He’s gone. Never did anything to anyone, and now Manny is dead.”

“I can’t do this anymore,” he adds.

Chapter 15

Manny’s parents wait 27 days to have Manny’s funeral, giving Justyce enough time to recover so that he can attend. He wishes they’d gone ahead and had it without him, since there are media people everywhere outside. In the weeks after Manny’s death, the media has begun to speculate about what happened. They suggest that he threatened Garret Tison or threw something into his Suburban or was carrying a gun.

At the funeral, Justyce sees SJ and remembers that she came to visit him in the hospital. She stood next to his bed and held his hand while crying. He also spots Jared’s friends at the funeral, but they don’t approach him or acknowledge him. He suddenly feels incensed when he notices that Jared is looking at him. At this point, though, he realizes that both of them are feeling “haunted.”

Justyce goes to the bathroom after Manny’s funeral and runs into SJ. He tells her that he misses her, but his mother appears before they can talk any more. His mother introduces herself to SJ, who says hello, then leaves them alone. Justyce’s mother looks at him with concern and asks how he knows SJ. She thinks she saw her looking at him in a way that makes her think there is something going on between them, but Justyce tries to tell his mom not to start this conversation at Manny’s funeral. Still, she says she just wants him to be careful around SJ because “I see what you two have been through together.” This makes Justyce want to explain all the ways that SJ helped him believe in himself when everyone else didn’t believe in him or wanted keep him small (like his dad). But instead of saying anything about this, he doesn’t say anything.

When Justyce and his mother leave the church, reporters ambush them. “Is it hard to know that he could’ve been in your place?” one asks. “Why are you being so mean?” Justyce replies, but his mother tells him not to say anything else and says that he has no further comments.

Tison Indictment Step Forward for Justice or Grand Jury Blunder?

A local newspaper printed an article about a grand jury indictment of former Atlanta police officer Garrett Tison. The journalist notes that this is a glaring contrast to the cases of Shemar Carson and Tavarrius Jenkins, two black teens who were recently shot by officers. The community is outraged at these charges because they feel as if Tison was defending himself from thugs and he should not be charged with aggravated assault or felony murder. Furthermore, another police officer suggests that the courts are “out to make an example” out of Tison since the prosecutor pulled the race card on him and got away with it in court.

Chapter 16

Six weeks after Manny’s death, his parents invite Justyce over for dinner. They tell him they want to “commemorate” the indictment of Garrett Tison. Still, though, Justyce feels uncomfortable about going to his dead best friend’s house. When he arrives, Mr. and Mrs. Rivers seat him at the table and serve his favorite meal. They ask him questions about how he’s faring in the aftermath of the attack. Eventually, they tell him that their nephew Quan Banks heard what happened and wants to see him; Quan is in a juvenile detention facility for killing Officer Castillo and asked them to let Justyce know that he wanted to talk with him when he was released from jail two years later (at age eighteen). Though it doesn’t make much sense why Quan would want anything more from Justyce than revenge since they went to elementary school together before moving away into different neighborhoods since then so it seems like a strange request but nevertheless justyce agrees because that’s all anyone has ever told or asked me too do even if I didn’t understand why anyways so maybe this time it’ll be different

Before Justyce leaves, the Rivers give him a watch. They were going to give it to Manny on his eighteenth birthday, but they felt that he was too young for such a nice gift. It’s an expensive family heirloom with special meaning because it has Manny’s initials carved into the underside of the watch face. Justyce feels like he can’t accept such a valuable gift, but he puts it on anyway because he doesn’t want to offend them or hurt their feelings.

Chapter 17

Justyce visits Quan to talk about Manny’s death. When they were in prison together, he heard that Garrett Tison was Officer Castillo’s partner on the police force. Justyce and Quan wonder if what happened between them led to Tison killing Manny. They feel it might have because of how quick Tison was to shoot at him when they saw each other again after being released from prison.

Justyce asks Quan why he killed Castillo. Quan is hesitant to answer since it’s not something that he wants to admit, but eventually says, “Listen up: where I come from, resistance is existence. Every day in the hood could be my last so I have to do whatever it takes to stay at the top of my game.” His friends are like family and if someone tells him to make a move then he has no choice but to follow orders because they’re loyal only as long as you are too. Justyce disagrees with this sentiment saying that growing up in the same neighborhood doesn’t mean you’ll end up killing people and that his way got him killed and Manny killed too.

Quan tells Justyce to face reality. He says he wanted to talk with him because he knew that Justyce would understand what it’s like to deal with racism. Quan has a counselor in juvenile detention, but she is white so he doesn’t think she understands the situation as well as someone who actually deals with it. “I feel you,” Justyce responds. Quan then tells a story about meeting a boy in juvenile detention who stabbed his father eight times and was only charged for assault and spent 60 days at a youth development campus before being released, while they locked up Quan for one year on petty theft charges when he did nothing wrong. “That’s why I gave up,” said Quan.”

Quan tells Justyce that he needs to find a group of people with whom he can associate. He believes that there’s strength in numbers, and urges Justyce to call Martel Montgomery, the leader of the Black Jihad. After Quan gives him Trey’s number, Justyce makes sure to remember it on his way out and enters it into his cellphone once he returns to his car after leaving the juvenile detention center.

Chapter 18

Justyce has a harder time resisting the urge to call Trey than he anticipated. While he’s spending the afternoon in Doc’s classroom, SJ bursts in and tells them to turn on the news. When they do, they see Justyce on TV. It’s from Halloween party when Jared, Manny, Justyce and others dressed as stereotypes (thug). Everyone else was cropped out of photo leaving Justyce alone in his “thug” costume. The anchor says that we know about his grades and SAT scores but this picture speaks a thousand words – it shows how much of an influence growing up with crime had on him.

Justyce knows that many people believe in his innocence because he’s been doing community service and has a lot of support, but at the same time he knows from observing Shemar Carson and Travarrius Jenkins’ cases that it only takes one photo to sway public opinion. He also realizes that an anti-gang violence pundit on the news is saying things about him like “I mean it’s obvious this kid was leading a double life. You know what they say, Steven: you can remove the kid from the thug life…But ya can’t remove the thug life from the kid.”

Justyce, SJ and Doc are shocked by what they’re hearing on the news. The pundit says that it wouldn’t be surprising if both Justyce and Manny had ties to Banks. He also said that Officer Tison might have seen them at the scene of his partner’s murder with a Range Rover in their driveway. It could have been Emmanuel Rivers’ car because we’re learning about all these connections.

Just then, SJ calls Jared. He reluctantly answers the phone and asks her to step outside into the hallway so he can talk to Doc alone. Justyce tells Doc that he’s discouraged because no one has been responding to his letters and emails about Dr. King’s experiment. He says that it doesn’t seem like people are interested in hearing what happened when a white man tried living as if Dr. King was still alive for an entire year; they just think that he’s crazy or trying to make money off of something tragic. Doc replies by telling him how uncomfortable people feel with the truth—that some “idiot pundit” would rather believe a twenty-year veteran cop made a snap judgment based on skin color than accept that another person could be capable of murder after seeing someone shoot at them first, even if they’re wearing a hoodie and holding Skittles in their hand (which is exactly what happened). When Justyce says this shouldn’t be his problem, Doc agrees but also says that Justyce needs to face it regardless since it will affect SJ too now.

Justyce asks Doc how his advice could help him. In response, Doc tells Justyce that he can’t change other people’s behavior, but he has control over himself. He then goes on to say that the only question worth asking is whether or not you’re going to be a good man if nothing ever changes in this world. SJ comes back and says that Jared apologized for what’s happening on TV, saying it was his fault. This frustrates Justyce because he thinks Jared is suddenly acting like some kind of white savior, but Doc interrupts and tells SJ and Justyce to cut him some slack since they were friends with Manny too.

Doc leaves the room, and Justyce is left alone with SJ. She apologizes for her behavior after the debate tournament. When he asks why she did that, she says that she was scared of Melo because of their past relationship issues. Then, they talk about how it won’t happen again in the future.

VP Released for Rabble-Rousing!

Julian Rivers has resigned from his position as executive vice president of Davidson Wells Financial Corporation. His resignation came after photographs of him participating in an Atlanta march that shut down traffic for hours were published in a local newspaper. The article also claims that the firm lost several high-profile clients and approximately $80 million in revenue because of Mr. Rivers’ participation in the protest, which led to his resignation.

Chapter 19

Justyce is going to Martel’s house because he read an article online about Mr. Rivers’ resignation. Justyce was very upset by this news, so his parents let him come over and spend the night at Martel’s house. They didn’t want him to be alone after hearing such upsetting news. Mr. Rivers resigned from his job when a company threatened that they would fire Manny’s dad if he continued working with Justice for JAM (Justice for Janitors).

Justyce is going to Martel Montgomery’s house because he has nowhere else to go. He values SJ’s friendship, but doesn’t feel she can really help him navigate racial injustice. Doc probably could, but Justyce is tired of his advice to “stay good even though the world craps on you.” The only person who seems to understand what he’s feeling is Deuce Diggs, a rapper they were listening to when Officer Tison shot them. But of course Jus doesn’t have access to Deuce Diggs right now. As a result, he’s been thinking about what Quan said–namely that the Black Jihad family is like family.

Justyce arrives at the home of Martel, a gang leader he’s heard about all his life. He finds Trey and other members of the gang on the porch. They laugh at Justyce for being “smarty pants” but then let him into Martel’s house. It turns out that it is filled with African masks, hieroglyphics, and paintings. Martel welcomes Justyce into his living room wearing a dashiki shirt and kufi hat (a traditional headdress worn by many men in Africa). Justyce notices that there is a tracking device around his ankle too; he explains to Justyce how important it is to remember their roots as they were once an empire like Egypt.

Martel tells Justyce that he has royal blood flowing through his veins and should never forget what his ancestors went through. He says that they survived a transatlantic journey, built the country from the ground up, and maintained their humanity in even the worst of times. Martel then asks why Justyce is there. Justyce explains everything that’s happened to him recently. By the time he’s finished talking, he feels relieved about finally talking to someone about all these difficult topics.

Martel gets Justyce a drink. While Martel is gone, Justyce looks around and sees a shotgun beneath the coffee table. He realizes that he shouldn’t be in this house because it’s not safe for him to be there. However, when Martel returns with the alcohol, he says, “So you can see things clearly now?” Before answering his question, Trey runs into the living room with several other gang members and gives Martel his phone. When they give it to Justyce, he sees an article about how Blake has told the press that Justyce attacked him at his birthday party; however, according to Blake’s statement on Facebook and Twitter (as well as what happened), it was actually Trevon who hit Blake first during their fight at school earlier in the day.

“Hell yeah, bruh!” one of the gang members says. “You can join us if you scrap like this dude said.” Another member agrees, saying, “I didn’t realize that you were so much like us! You’re welcome to hang out with us anytime.” Justyce jumps up from the rug and leaves the house.

Chapter 20

Justyce goes to SJ’s house and meets her parents. They’ve missed spending time with him because he hasn’t been coming over recently. He is moved by how much they care about their daughter, so he goes to see her in her room. She is surprised but welcomes him in, apologizing for the way her parents have acted towards him lately. “They talk about you all the time,” she says.

SJ asks Justyce why he has come to see her. He tries to answer but can’t find the right words. “Is everything okay, Jus?” she asks, touching his wrist where he was arrested by Castillo. Looking for a moment at his wrists, he feels a weight slip off his shoulders so then stands up and pulls SJ into a hug that lifts her off of her feet. With his face buried in her hair, he explains what happened at Martel’s house and about Quan in juvenile detention. As he does this, tears begin to form as well as relief because it is the first time ever since before prison that Justyce felt happy and relieved from pain and stress.

As he hugs SJ, Justyce imagines Manny saying, “Finally.” He thinks about how long it took him to tell her that he likes her. She asks if he likes her and says she doesn’t know how to read his signals. She’s liked him since the tenth grade but wasn’t sure if they were dating or not. He admits that he hesitated before answering because of what his mother would think of them being together. They then agree on dating each other.

Transcript from nightly news, May 21

A news anchor reports that a fire was started at Garrett Tison’s house. The police apprehended three teenagers who were seen in the area around the time of the incident. The trial for Tison, who is accused of killing one teenager and wounding another with gunfire, begins five weeks from now.

Chapter 21

Justyce is at his graduation ceremony when the police approach him, along with his mother. He isn’t surprised since he has been waiting to be accused of something ever since Blake said that Justyce beat him up (the accusation failed because “even smart people ignored a kid in a KKK robe”). When the officers ask for Justyce’s name, his mother interrupts but Justyce tells her to stop because he will cooperate. His mother protests again and says that she does not want her son questioned by police but Justyce continues to tell her to stay quiet and cooperate as well. They ask if what happened with Garrett was an accident or intentional.

The police officers turn around to consult one another. As they do so, Justyce’s mother scolds him for disobeying her by talking to the police. In response, he points out that “refusing to talk” would make it look like he has “something to hide.” “You can’t protect me forever,” he adds. When the officers return, they tell him that they have arrested three people in connection with the fire: two of them—including Trey—have named Justyce as an accomplice and a third person did not mention his name at all despite being present when both Trey and the other man were caught setting fires in previous incidents. He assures Justyce that although these men are known troublemakers who often try to implicate innocent parties in their crimes, there is something odd about this case because none of them mentioned his name even though he was present during both arson attempts while neither of those men were there for either attempt (the other man was only implicated after attempting on his own).

The police officers ask Justyce questions. One of them asks if he’s been in contact with Trey, and Justyce answers honestly by saying “yes.” He says that he met someone, but Trey was there too. His mother is upset about this revelation, but the police remain calm and continue asking questions. They ask who he was meeting, but his mother interjects by telling them that it doesn’t matter because they’re not connected to the arson. The officers look annoyed at this comment from Justyce’s mom, but she tells him it’s OK to tell them what happened on May 20th because they don’t think he had anything to do with the fire anyway. When asked if he has any connection with Black Jihad on May 20th (the day of the fire), Justyce says no because he hasn’t seen or spoken to anyone from Black Jihad since April 20th (when SJ first started hanging out with MJ). As his mother stares at him in shock for lying about where he really was on May 20th (with MJ), SJ comes over along with Mrs Friedman and confirms that story for the police officers by saying she saw him all night long when she picked up her son after school ended at 3:30pm.

After Justyce’s graduation, his mother doesn’t speak to him for the entire ride home. She only speaks up when they get back to their house and she locks the door behind them. Then, she starts criticizing him for keeping so much from her all these years, especially about dating a white girl. She says that there are plenty of brilliant black women who would be just as good for him as SJ is. “So what you’re saying is after a lifetime of getting picked apart because of my skin color I should dismiss the girl I love because of hers?” he asks her. Still, his mother sticks by her decision not to give him permission to date SJ or anyone else with light skin color in general even if it means hurting her son’s feelings in the process. ”I know you’re grown now,” she tells him before leaving, “and you’ll do what you want but don’t come crying to me when things go wrong.”

Chapter 22

Justyce is on the witness stand. He has just finished testifying and thinks that everything went well, but he’s about to be cross-examined by Tison’s attorney, who will ask him questions in an attempt to weaken his testimony. She begins by asking if he and Manny had planned to go hiking or not, which Justyce explains because of what happened with Jared. When she asks why they changed plans, Justyce says it was because Manny was upset after hearing that Jared’s parents were going to press charges against him for assaulting Jared; the attorney then points out that this sounds familiar since Justyce hit a student named Kevin for making fun of Manny.

The attorney continues to ask questions. He asks about the fight between Justyce and Blake, and he explains that it wasn’t unprovoked. She then asks a number of confusing questions, which confuses him even more. He tries to explain everything as clearly as possible but admits that he can’t remember everything in vivid detail because he’d been drinking on the night of the party where this happened. The attorney suggests that this is why they have trouble remembering things completely, which makes sense for both parties involved in the incident.

At this point, the assistant district attorney reads a clause from the City of Atlanta Code of Ordinances that says no one can make noise in public spaces. The defense lawyer points out that Justyce and Manny violated that law because they refused to turn down their music. He then asks if the song had lyrics like “Here comes the fun, wait for the sound of a gun”. Justyce explains why this lyric was taken out of context, but is ignored by his opponent who adds that Manny made an obscene gesture which could be perceived as a threat.

The lawyer for the defendant asks Justyce if he knows that his client witnessed the shooting death of his partner by a young man who looked like him. She then tells the court about how Justyce spoke to Quan, who connected him with some other guys, and those guys deliberately set Tison’s house on fire. As Justyce tries to clarify what happened during this time period, the attorney cuts him off and says no further questions.

Garret Tison: MURDERER?

In an article with the subtitle, “The Jury Is Still Out,” a journalist reports that the jury found Tison guilty on two of his four charges. After 27 hours of deliberation, Tison was convicted of disorderly conduct and discharge of a pistol near public highways. The jury could not reach a consensus regarding felony murder and declared it as mistrial. The writer then suggests that Justyce’s possible connection to known gang members casted considerable palls over the proceedings in court. In conclusion, Mr. Tison will be retried on the murder count and sentenced on all convictions at a later date

Chapter 23

Two days after the trial, Justyce is at SJ’s house. They’re watching a documentary on the National Geographic channel, but he can’t focus because he doesn’t know whether Tison was convicted of murder or not. He and SJ lie there together as Mrs. Friedman gets a call from her husband to tell them that Garrett Tison has died before his second trial could be held.

Transcript from morning news, August 9

The top story on the local news is about Garrett Tison, who was killed by fellow inmates. He had just been tried and convicted of murder. The three men involved in his death were already awaiting trial for other murders.

Four Months Later

It’s Christmas Day and Justyce has come to the cemetery to visit Manny’s grave. He sees that Jared is there too, and they greet each other. They talk about how much they miss Manny, and then Jared apologizes for bringing up such things because he guesses that Justyce doesn’t want to hear it. But Justyce says it’s okay, because he understands what Jared means. Then the two boys start reminiscing about Manny together before saying goodbye again as they leave the cemetery.

Jared goes to Yale too, but he doesn’t see Justyce much. When they do get together, Jared tells him that he’s decided not to go into business like his father wanted him to and instead is going into African American Studies and minoring in it because the class really inspired him. He also says that SJ is still with them after a year of dating. The wind picks up for a moment, signaling their connection from when Manny was alive at school. They continue talking about going out or visiting New York sometime soon since SJ lives there now. Jared replies that he would love to hang out with Jus more often as well; Jus responds by saying he feels the same way about hanging out with Jared again too.

Dear Martin Book Summary, by Nic Stone

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