by Julie G. Delegal
LeGlade Press

"He'd been waiting all day for someone to see him, to see who he was."

Jason Royals is a fifteen-year-old black teenager accused of shooting and killing a tourist named Betty Patterson. He is on his way to apply for a job at Wellstein's Pharmacy when a police officer stops him and arrests him because he matches the description of a murder suspect. From there, Jason's life goes downhill. First, he sustains physical injuries at the hands of the police. Then they coerce him into making a false confession. Finally, he is rushed to the hospital after he loses consciousness due to a hypoglycemic shock. During his stay at the hospital, he receives the right care. Unfortunately, the police subsequently arrest him and take him to an adult jail. Throughout this journey, Jason must prove his innocence with the help of his lawyer, civil rights attorney Aaron Hampton.

In her work, Delegal establishes a sharp contrast between prejudice and tolerance. For instance, the prejudice of the police is seen in their assumption that Jason, being black, killed Patterson. Meanwhile, the nurse at the hospital represents tolerance, ignoring Jason’s skin color and instead seeing him simply as a patient. It is an interesting choice to have Detective Sergeant John Marshall be a black man because he also believes Jason is guilty without solid evidence. It is especially ironic because the detective does not realize his implicit racial bias. The author does a good job of describing the characters, and through the dialogue, the reader gets a sense of each one’s personality. For instance, the author depicts Jason as a bright and ambitious young man whose dreams come crashing down because of an unequal judicial system. Delegal tackles the horror of racial profiling and its devastating consequences in a thought-provoking work that exposes the harsh realities of the unfair treatment of African-Americans in America.

The 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Award Young Adult category winner, as well as First Horizon finalist.

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