Book Review: Hands Up by Stephen Clark

I’m gonna say it. I can’t help it. This is my best book of 2020 so far.

Goodreads Blurb

Hands Up by Stephen Clark

Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now, with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.

Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student living in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods. She knows the chances of getting an indictment against the cop who killed her brother are slim. When she learns there’s more to the story than the official police account, Jade is determined, even desperate, to find out what really happened. She plans to get revenge by any means necessary.

Kelly Randolph, who returns to Philadelphia broke and broken after abandoning his family ten years earlier, seeks forgiveness while mourning the death of his son. But after he’s thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.

Ryan, Jade, and Kelly–three people from different worlds—are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.



As you can probably tell from the blurb, Hands Up draws from the very important Black Lives Matter movement. This makes for a necessary and timely book topic, but also one that is extremely sensitive. For that reason, I don’t want to go too much into that aspect of Hands Up; I don’t feel like I’m the right person to comment on it. What I would like to make clear, however, is that because the author is a journalist, you can expect a non-biased story, told from the viewpoint of the victim’s family and the police officer who shot him.

Hands Up goes far beyond the topics already mentioned. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that so delicately deals with grief, abandonment, self-harm, panic attacks and homelessness. And what was even more amazing was that it was done using characters that are not completely likeable or have the ability to draw sympathy from the reader.

Ryan is probably the character most in the “grey zone”. I won’t say too much in fear of spoilers but it is difficult to decide whether the shooting was racially driven or not on his side, at least in the first half of the book. Then we have Jade. Jade is the girl who loves her family and is trying her best to get out of the ghetto. In other books, she would have been the hero, the character we all loved. I didn’t like her. But I did enjoy the complexity that the author provided her with. This made for a much more interesting read.

What I really liked about Hands Up was that it went beyond the crime itself and into the aftermath of everything that happened for all the characters. Part 2 drives the story in a way you would never have guessed. It had great twists but overall I felt it could have done with more development. And the ending. I was going to write that I disliked the ending but that’s not true. I’m just disappointed it didn’t end the way I wanted to, and am shocked at how it did end. Honestly, it was an epic ending and I can’t fault the author there.

To wrap things up, you have to read this book. And then come find me so we can have a big long chat about it!

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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