In a letter to Justyce, Quan writes that it’s weird to write an actual letter, especially to Justyce. When Quan woke up earlier, he saw the Martin Luther King notebook that Justyce left. He thanks Justyce for visiting and says the notebook was interesting—especially the info about Manny, whom Quan didn’t know well. Most surprising about the notebook was realizing that he and Justyce have a lot in common. Quan was struck by the line, “Those assholes can’t seem to care about being offensive, so why should I give a damn about being agreeable?”
Manny was Quan’s wealthy cousin who, in Stone’s previous novel Dear Martin, was murdered by an off-duty police officer. As Quan muses that he, Justyce, and maybe Manny aren’t all that different, he realizes that racism affects Black people no matter how financially well off they are. Justyce’s line about being “agreeable” gestures to the idea that Black people in America face a double standard. White people are allowed to make mistakes or engage in offensive behavior—while for a Black person, something like that could land them in deep trouble.
Quan writes that his Daddy was arrested a few years after he and Justyce met in the rocket ship. Daddy got 25 years in prison. Reflecting on the terrifying experience of watching Daddy get arrested, Quan notes that he’s only been that scared one other time in his life. He really misses Daddy, especially since he just realized that today is the sixth anniversary of Daddy’s arrest. This also means that Quan has been in detention for 16 months. He doesn’t have a trial date yet. Though he tries to remain unaffected, it’s hard to ignore the awful food and how defeated everyone seems. He keeps wondering how disappointed Daddy would be if he knew.
The revelation that Daddy got 25 years in prison means that Quan will be without his father for another two decades. In this sense, it becomes clear that Quan has lost a major pillar of support and is still mourning the loss. While it’s unclear at this point why Quan is in juvenile detention (though readers of Dear Martin will remember that Quan killed a white police officer), Quan nevertheless shows that prison breaks a person down. Life is joyless and feels like a state of limbo—and, worst of all for Quan, he knows he’s disappointed Daddy by ending up here.
Quan notes that Daddy’s job wasn’t “statutory,” but Daddy was insistent that Quan would do better. He’d even leave Quan at the library when he made runs (the head librarian was one of Daddy’s clients). Quan used to love the Series of Unfortunate Events books. Daddy is why Quan ended up in the Challenge Math class with Justyce—but then Daddy was gone and things turned upside down. This is why Quan stopped talking to Justyce, even though Quan looked up to him. Justyce seemed to “ha[ve] [his] shit together,” and Quan wanted to be like that. That would make Daddy proud.
In wanting “better” for Quan, Daddy implies that he wants Quan too have a “statutory”—that is, legal—job. And given what Quan has said about his love of Lemony Snicket’s books as a kid and his mention of being in an advanced math class, it seems like as a young kid, Quan was incredibly bright and poised for success. But without Daddy’s encouragment, things fell apart. Quan, for whatever reason, didn’t feel like he could continue to rely on Justyce, even if Justyce was what Daddy wanted Quan to be. This passage speaks to the dangers of losing one’s support network—for Quan, that’s what made everything fall apart.
But seeing what Justyce wrote about being set off, Quan wonders if Daddy’s attempts were pointless. At this point, it doesn’t matter—Quan will probably get more time than Daddy. Maybe Quan won’t even send this letter. If he does, Justyce had better write back.
Here, Quan wonders if there was any hope for him to do better than Daddy, given the circumstances. At this point, he begins to question whether it was fate that he’s ended up in prison, a question he grapples with throughout the novel.