Title: All American Boys
Authors: Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Publish Date: September 29, 2015
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Source: Hardcover signed by authors from ALA! 🙂
This book needs to be read. It’s powerful. It’s influential. It’s relevant. The topic can be uncomfortable to read at times which is what makes it all the more important for our generation.
All American Boys has been on my TBR list for a while. I finally had it checked out from the library right when ALA came around. I knew then that I’d rather meet the authors and get my own personal copy. Turns out, it was my top two favorite author meet-and-greets. Both authors were so awesome and personable. My friend and I walked away talking about how they were definitely one of our highlights.
This book was important to me personally because I have been ignorant to some of the fundamental, structural racism that exists in this world. Like me, Quinn in this story had his eyes opened through events that took place in front of him. I identified with his chapters in so many ways. As a white person, I will never understand how it feels to be treated like I am lesser of a human because of my skin and for many years I didn’t truly identify the racism that was around me because it’s so “normal”. It didn’t affect me, even if I did not agree with their beliefs and therefore I didn’t know or understand the part I play in the equation. That’s Quinn’s biggest challenge in this book. He witnesses something wrong. He knows it’s wrong. He questions his thinking and his actions up to that point and even his relationships with life-long friends change as he grows into a more well-rounded and accepting person when he decides it’s time to stand up for what’s right. He decides he can’t just walk away from the situation and he takes a stand. While Quinn’s side of the story is valuable, he’s not the most important part of this book. Rashad is.
Rashad is a black teenage boy with an older brother and two very loving parents, even if his dad is on the strict side. He’s a normal teenage boy who participates in JROTC upon his dad’s insistence because in his opinion, joining the military is the best opportunity a young, black man has once they have graduated high school. After school on Friday he is headed to a party when he stops along the way at corner store to buy a snack. In the checkout line he bends down to get into his duffle bag for his phone when a lady trips over him and falls. Without question, the clerk accuses him of shoplifting and a cop that was already in the store yolks him up and shoves him out the door to further brutalize him. His side of the story was never heard and he ended up in the hospital for around a week with broken ribs, a broken nose, and internal bleeding. What struck me the most within Rashad’s part of the book was his confusion. He couldn’t rationalize what had happened to him because he was completely innocent. Both boys went through a tremendous amount of growth through a single event, but Rashad’s entire life changed and in a sense his innocence was crushed.
One aspect of the writing that I really liked was how the boys were completely different characters who were living different experiences, but there were still so many commonalities that if it didn’t tell you outright, you really wouldn’t have known their racial backgrounds. Both talked about high school, parties, girls, and their interests like every single teenager in this world. It gives a beautiful representation that we truly are part of the same human race, just with different shades of skin color.
I don’t feel like I can adequately express my love for this book and all it represents within a review, but I hope that at least some people come away from reading this and add it to their TBR. You won’t regret it.