I really liked this book, and there were times throughout the audiobook where I was physically worried for the sake of the lead character. You can tell when a book is not going to allow its characters to be safe, and for me, this book felt that way because there was no humor in it. There’s a few little moments here and there, but this book treats its whole aura as deadly serious, which it is, but that also means no levity. So if I hadn’t had finished it in one go, it would have been harder to come back to.
So the plot here is common enough in recent YA books — a young Black teen boy is falsely arrested when trying to help his very drunk girlfriend back into her car (he’s going to drive her home). The officer who arrests him mistakes (or willfully does not see the truth) him for a carjacker because of his hoodie (which happens to have the name of the very rich private boarding school outside of Atlanta that he goes to) and throws him to the ground, threatens to murder him, and throws in some racial slurs and dehumanizations to boot. This inspires Justyce, our protagonist, to write letters to (the deceased) Martin Luther King Jr asking for guidance and clarity as an act of introspection.
The novel goes down some various predictable paths, especially if like the adults in the narrative you’re already aware of the dangers that Justyce faces in various contexts. I spent a lot of the novel just flat out worried for him. It covers a lot of the same ground as The Hate U Give and especially American Boys, but I think this novel has a lot of impact and precision in its storytelling.