Book Reviews

Book Review: ALL AMERICAN BOYS

AABTitle: ALL AMERICAN BOYS
Author: Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
Publication Information: Atheneum, 2017 (first published 2015)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Source: Library – read for class
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Warnings: Violence (specifically: police brutality), racism, underage drinking, language, hospitals
Rating: 5 stars
Recommended For: Everyone.

A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

There were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

(Summary from Goodreads)

This. Book.

I was surprised by how much this book stuck with me – which really shouldn’t have, because it’s Jason Reynolds (who is the entire reason I selected this book from a handful of options for my YA resources class).

I found myself resonating most strongly with Quinn’s chapters, as his point of view was one that I could identify with. Quinn, who is white, has never once had to think about walking into a convenience store for a bag of chips, for example, but once he witnesses Rashad being brutally beaten by his best friend’s older brother – who stepped into the role of father figure after Quinn’s father was killed in action in Afghanistan – all of that changes. Which usually makes me cringe, because the white people learning other people are human thing is old (THERE ARE SO MANY OF THOSE) and also, DUH other people are human. But instead of veering down that road, ALL AMERICAN BOYS actively wrestles with what whiteness means in our society through Quinn’s point of view as he realizes over the course of the story that someone can simultaneously be a “good”or “nice”  person but also racist.

Meanwhile, Rashad does some hard thinking of his own while in the hospital, as he spends his waking hours wondering what he could’ve done differently to avoid his altercation with Paul. He’s also caught in the middle between two sides: his ex-Army, ex-cop father, who advocates going along to get along; and his older brother, who’s politically active and wants to shake up the system (much to their father’s chagrin).

This book should be required reading for everyone.

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