All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Trigger warnings: Police brutality, racism, violence, gun violence

Synopsis: Rashad is absent again today.
That’s the sidewalk graffiti that started it all…

Well, no, actually, a lady tripping over Rashad at the store, making him drop a bag of chips, was what started it all. Because it didn’t matter what Rashad said next—that it was an accident, that he wasn’t stealing—the cop just kept pounding him. Over and over, pummeling him into the pavement. So then Rashad, an ROTC kid with mad art skills, was absent again…and again…stuck in a hospital room. Why? Because it looked like he was stealing. And he was a black kid in baggy clothes. So he must have been stealing.

And that’s how it started.

And that’s what Quinn, a white kid, saw. He saw his best friend’s older brother beating the daylights out of a classmate. At first Quinn doesn’t tell a soul…He’s not even sure he understands it. And does it matter? The whole thing was caught on camera, anyway. But when the school—and nation—start to divide on what happens, blame spreads like wildfire fed by ugly words like “racism” and “police brutality.” Quinn realizes he’s got to understand it, because, bystander or not, he’s a part of history. He just has to figure out what side of history that will be.

Rashad and Quinn—one black, one white, both American—face the unspeakable truth that racism and prejudice didn’t die after the civil rights movement. There’s a future at stake, a future where no one else will have to be absent because of police brutality. They just have to risk everything to change the world.

Cuz that’s how it can end.

Review: All American Boys was an incredible book. Jason Reynolds writes Rashad, the black main character, and Brendan Kiely writes Quinn, the white main character. While there are two writers and their writing is very different, the story flows together effortlessly and you can tell a lot of care went into this story and the characters. I loved seeing Rashad and Quinn throughout the book. The story is told throughout a 7 day period, and each day has a Quinn chapter and a Rashad chapter. We clearly see how detached these two boys are from each other even though they go to the same school and have mutual acquaintances. Most of Rashad's experience in this story is while he's in the hospital. Still, his growth as a character is outstanding. He has these heartbreaking moments where he wants to be away from the news stories and the fallout occurring at his school, but then he realizes that this is his life and he can't hide away from what happened to him. On the other hand, Quinn has seen how Rashad's situation has affected the school and the people he surrounds himself with.

Again, All American Boys takes place within a week. The pacing of the book was very well done. Nothing felt forced or too quickly resolved. My favorite thing about this book was how the first chapter and the last chapter mirrored each other. When the book opens, Rashad is recounting his time marching in ROTC, and the last solo chapter of the book is Rashad marching with his family and classmates as they take a stand against police brutality. Another thing I liked was the way Quinn confronted Jill about saying the word "racism." They were in a conversation about how the world treats people differently based on their race, but Jill doesn't want to tag the word "racism" next to these events. I think that's very true to reality. Speaking from experience, I know what it's like to be afraid to call someone out for racist behaviors. All American Boys is also a great way to show that there isn't a real definition of an American. This country is founded on so many people and so many backgrounds that there isn't a true "American" way to exist. Quinn wrestles with this idea himself because, from the start, he refers to himself as "all American" but he realizes that he's really describing being white and white privilege.

Outstanding book about being willing to stand out and speak up.

5 howls