Forgive Me Not

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Aug. 2023. 400p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593406847.
Gr 8 Up–Violetta Chen-Samuels made a mistake with life-altering consequences. She drove drunk with her seven-year-old sister as a passenger, and her sister died. Now Letta is in juvenile detention awaiting her fate. Under the current justice system, victims of crimes determine the consequences for criminals. If Letta is forgiven, she can return home; if not, she can choose between a longer sentence in juvenile detention or participation in The Trials, experiences designed to make sure offenders understand the true impact of their crimes. When Letta learns that her family is not ready to forgive her, she decides to endure the unknowns of The Trials in the hope of returning home more quickly, and has an eye-opening experience of what justice really means in this society. Chapters alternately narrated by Letta and her older brother, Vince, provide multiple perspectives on Letta’s offense and its impact, while also highlighting the differences between the siblings’ actions and their consequences. Letta’s exploration of the origin of The Trials, particularly what happened to the first person sentenced to them, draws parallels to the inequality of the justice system in the United States, particularly its treatment of Black people and people of color. Letta and her siblings are biracial Chinese-American and Black; Vince, as well as other secondary characters, are queer.
VERDICT An important addition to teen library collections; hand to readers looking for inequality and social justice stories such as This is My America by Kim Johnson, The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed, and When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris.

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