Top positive review
An important read, fantastically adapted.
Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2018
I read the original Just Mercy only a year ago, and it has stuck with me ever since. These stories seemed especially relevant as I teach To Kill a Mockingbird to 8th graders where we also grapple with themes of injustice. I actually had my students read excerpts from the original version as we read TKAM to see how these issues pervade our society today. My students responded incredibly well to these stories; our conversation was lively and informed, and parents commented that their students came home and wanted to engage in more conversation. I have realized that when you give adolescents big issues with no right answers, they will astound you with their willingness to dig deep and try to understand. They love being treated as adults and knowing that their voice matters.
I was excited to see that this was being adapted for young adults, but at the same time, I was wary. I found every detail of Just Mercy important to understanding the context and the story, and since my students did not really struggle with the original, I wondered exactly what would be changed. I did not want it to take away all of the graphic elements; after all, those were what told my students that they were dealing with something real.
As it turns out, I had little reason to worry. The young adult version still has that wonderful clarity and wisdom that drew me into the original. It sometimes explains some of the more complex ideas more explicitly. It also cuts back on some of the detail and will summarize some points, especially with Stevenson's anecdotes (which is a bummer but understandable). The chapters flow in the same order and cover basically all of the same points. The result is still powerful and definitely mature, just a little shorter.
This year, I am planning on fully integrating this book into my curriculum. Most of my students will read this version, but I will give them the option to also read the original if they are ready for a bit more of a challenge. No matter what, we will all still be able to have conversations regarding justice, mercy, hope, and perseverance. I can't wait for it.