“Dear Martin meets Just Mercy in this unflinching yet uplifting YA novel that explores the racist injustices in the American justice system.
Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?
Fans of Nic Stone and Jason Reynolds won’t want to miss this provocative and gripping debut.”
I got an ARC of this book.
This book was mostly amazing. The things that I didn’t like are pretty much things I dislike about a lot of books. I also hate murder mystery sort of books, so I am probably not the target audience for this book at all since there was a large murder mystery plot.
The emotions were raw and intense. I adored how the characters thought and felt. Most of the characters made so much sense and felt so real. The few that didn’t felt like they were more caricatures, but because that is how the MC saw them, not from lack of writing ability on Johnson’s part. This distinction is huge. It did make the big twist (mentioned in the book description) seem more like it was out of nowhere for the characters involved than flow smoothly. It did not take away from the emotional punch or the reality that this book highlights.
Things I didn’t like: teen girl pretty much solves a murder mystery with no training and despite all odds. This is just a normal gripe. I am annoyed that characters have all this luck and skill that just doesn’t fit the character. Johnson had less of this, but it was still annoying how easy it was for a crime scene to be entered and how much that the MC got away with. The love plot. Give me a break. This book would have read just the same without the which boy will she choose love triangle. It is not resolved either so it felt more like it was thrown in and this book did not need more plot. There were incredibly serious plots already. The low plot felt like it dragged the book down.
Things I really loved: the information about rights and how to handle interactions with the police. This could have come across as super preachy or info dump, but it made perfect sense in this book that the characters would be talking about this and in the way that they did. The MC taught a class about it at the community center which means she would know these things and these things would come up in her life. Wonderful way to teach the reader and keep true to the characters and story. The letters that the MC write to get her dad an appeal attorney. They served multiple purposes. They helped mark time since she wrote them every week and added more of a sense of urgency to the count down for her father.
This book highlights huge issues that are too often ignored. I have seen small glimpses of things like this when I worked prosecution and again working in defense. I have been told to withhold sending of evidence in a murder case. I have been told it was “too hard” to get contact information and names of witnesses by the police who investigated a case when they provided no names for the only non-police witnesses in a case. I have dug up records that showed that someone was not even in the state when they were charged with arson which they could not have physically committed without being able to bike at over 50 MPH to be able to set all the fires in the time limit given by the one racist witness (the case went to trial despite these glaring issues and during the trial the one witness admitted he lied to the police to make them take him seriously. The young black man sat in jail for months over something he did not do and could not have done). Nothing in this book is out of the realm of possibility. I have seen things like this. This has been shown that it can happen over and over again. If you don’t believe me, check out the case of Lamonte McIntyre. This is what this book is about. A system that was supposedly made to protect people, but instead it is a system that is instead meant to punish people. This book is incredibly powerful.
4 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this book.
You can buy the book here.