Not Guilty

Not Guilty by C. Lee McKenzie
Published October 2019

This book grabbed my attention in the first chapter and kept me engaged throughout. I didn’t want to put it down, wanting to figure out how the protagonist, Devon, gets through his dilemma. A high school junior with the hope of playing college basketball, Devon is dumped by his girlfriend after someone falsely identifies his car parked on the street where his ex-girlfriend lived. That was a start of a bad day that only got worse. He skips his last class and went to the beach. On the way, he’s receives a ticket for speeding and then later, identified as the person who stabbed a local surfer on that afternoon. When he’s found guilty, he is sent to juvenile detention for five months and then is on probation afterwards. Along the way, he’s haunted by a basketball player from another town who he runs into in detention (and afterwards). In detention, he befriends several Hispanic youths who teach him what true friendship is all about. After he gets out of detention, he realizes things have gone downhill for his family (they suffered financial hardship because of his conviction). But in the end, everything works out as Devon helps put the pieces together that eventually lead to the arrest of the person who committed the assault. In a way, the Devon and his family fortunes have changed so that the book seems somewhat comic (in the classical sense). But Devon does learn what it means to work hard, to have true friends, and that although the justice system doesn’t always get it right, it often corrects itself.

This would be a great read for any teenager, especially for boys who have found themselves being wrongly accused by police (as I experienced nearly a half-century ago). Lee McKenzie should be congratulated for writing a book that addresses such issues.

I received a free electronic copy of this book for an honest review.

14 Replies to “Not Guilty”

  1. This sounds like a really good and empowering book. The kids in the community where I teach encounter more than their fair share of dysfunction, tragedy, and socio-economic difficulties, and the boys seem to struggle more. The girls are tough, resilient, focused–it seems, more often at least, that it’s the boys who fall apart. They need hopeful reflections.

    And wow, that must have been so harrowing for you to go through as a youth. I hope it was resolved without major harm done.

  2. Got into a debate about cops recently with the type of person who doesn’t see them doing anything wrong. This person feels that police work is so hellish that any mistakes they make in the course of their careers are outweighed by the benefits of keeping order in society.

    Yeah, that didn’t go over with me when an African-American guy can die for selling loose cigarettes on a New York street corner. Then there is the black guy shot dead in Charleston for running away from a white cop with that officer later claiming he felt his life was in danger.

    I understand police officers have a extremely difficult job but…and it’s a big one, that doesn’t give them the right to act like KGB agents of Nazis.

    1. There is a lot of injustice in this world and if we only put ourselves into the shoes of others, we might learn something…

      1. I think because there is so much injustice, we need to keep pointing that out. I shudder thinking how it would be to go to prison for something I didn’t do. Imagine how your life changes!

    1. I received a ticket for something I didn’t do when I was 16… It was for “following to close.” I was in an accident and was carried to the hospital in an ambulance. My father arrived at the hospital, thankfully, right before the officer arrived to give me a ticket. A car had turned out of the left hand lane in front of me and I hit her (she was 20 years old and I’m told good looking, but being knocked out, I didn’t meet her). When the cop handed me the ticket, I shouted, “you’re crazy.” If it wasn’t for my dad, I might have received more than a citation. My father quickly put his hand over my mouth and asked the officer to explain how the cars were positioned. When he said my car had hit her car in the front quarter panel, my father very carefully said, “It’s not physically possible for my son to have been behind her and hit her there.” The cop said something like, “well, that’s my conclusion.” My father very calmly said: “if that’s the case, we’ll see you in court.” Thankfully, unlike Devon, my ticket was dismissed and her parent’s insurance company (she was driving her parents car and I was driving one of my parents cars) paid before the court date.

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