ustyce McAllister is a seventeen-year-old with a bright future, thanks to his grades and being lucky enough to have a mother who has worked herself to the bone to send him to the prestigious prep school in Atlanta. Then one evening, when trying to help his extremely drunken ex-girlfriend get home safely (she’s half-black, but looks more like her Norwegian mother than her black dad), he’s detained by a very aggressive cop who’s convinced he was trying to carjack and abduct the girl. Even after the girl’s actual parents show up at the scene to protest, the cop is reluctant to let Justyce go and the scars the episode give him aren’t limited to the bruising on his wrists that take weeks to heal.
Justyce suddenly finds himself becoming a lot more aware of race relations and especially the micro-aggressions that he and his fellow black students at the school (there aren’t many) suffer, as well as how cases of police violence against black youths are being presented in the media, not to mention tried in the courts. His best friend Manny has a rich CEO father and lives a life of privilege very different from what Justyce has experienced growing up. Manny has a bunch of white friends and doesn’t seem to understand exactly why Justyce suddenly seems to see racism everywhere. The fact that Manny’s frequently insensitive friends can hold him up as a black success story to prove that, sure, there’s equality now, doesn’t exactly help matters. Justyce begins to spend more time with his debate partner, valedictorian S-J (Sarah Jane). She’s Jewish, so a lot more used to having to fend off insensitive comments and micro-aggressions than Manny.
Justyce starts a journal, where he tries to model his life more on the teachings on Martin Luther King Jr, by writing letters to the dead preacher. This seems to work for a while, but all thoughts of journalling are gone from Justyce’s mind after he and Manny go driving one evening, blasting their music loudly on the speakers, and a deeply unfortunate encounter with an angry off-duty cop ends with Manny dead at the wheel. Even more traumatic than being wrongfully arrested, Justice now needs to process surviving where his best friend didn’t. He’s gone from reading the headlines to becoming one himself, and the event leaves him shaken and deeply conflicted.
Full review here.