Dear Justyce

Crown. Sept. 2020. 288p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781984829665.
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.

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