Bryan Stevenson’s bestselling Just Mercy has been adapted for young adults, and the result is certainly more accessible, though some of the potency of the first volume is lost in the adaptation.
Those familiar with Stevenson’s premise of justice as the opposite of poverty will find his examples and his explanations relevant and meaningful. His personal narrative style is the kind of work many young people will find engaging, and this is certain to be a high-interest text for high school students. As a high-school teacher myself, I can easily see this text being included in classrooms that also teach classic American literature works like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Alongside works like those, this adaptation of Just Mercy can contemporize conversations related to racial and economic justice in 21st-century America.
Perhaps the most compelling feature of this book is the interwoven references to faith. As Stevenson reveals stories of the people he worked with who he describes as “poor, voiceless, and vulnerable,” there is a Christian through-line. Titles of chapters include “The Old Rugged Cross” and “I’ll Fly Away,” both titles derived from traditional hymns. In each of those chapters, as in the hymns, there is a common thread of getting to peace after this life is over and of suffering on earth for a later reward. Reading the book, I kept wondering if Stevenson meant in some way to suggest justice isn’t really possible on earth, and that we must be diligent in our efforts to effect it, as it is not naturally occurring.
While the book itself is a bit heavy-handed in places, I encourage people to consider using parts of this text to address some of the most pressing issues of the day—police brutality, uneven incarceration rates based on race, wrongful imprisonment—with younger audiences.
This page was created by an City Book Review staff member.
|Author||Bryan A. Stevenson|
|Page Count||288 pages|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|