All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Inside cover blurb:

“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.”

-from publisher


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This is a very timely book with an interesting format: two narratives told by alternating characters, one black and one white, each written by two different authors, one who is black and one who is white.

Reynolds and Kiely do a fantastic job of depicting all sides of the story. Especially when it comes to the reasons why people often choose inaction when faced with a difficult situation- in this case, deciding whether or not to testify against a police officer who clearly did the wrong thing.

Neither main character, Rashad (the victim) nor Quinn (witness to the assault), wants to be involved in what becomes a national news story, but they come to realize that we are all a part of these stories whether we act or not.

No matter your own political leanings, American Boys depicts how much skin color really means in this country. I hope that it challenges the reader to acknowledge and question the flaws in our criminal justice system and all systems of power.

Plus: This book really makes the racial issues of our country personal and individual. Everyone needs to understand that they are part of the problem and therefore part of the solution!

Minus: Reads a little like a how-to (do the right thing) manual at some points, but it is a very important message so the bluntness of the dialogue can be excused, in my opinion.

If you like this book, try:

How It Went Down

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon- A narrative told by many different characters, all with their own opinion as to why a black teen was shot and killed by a white man.

3 thoughts on “All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely”

  1. I came across this book on Amazon and it called my attention so much!! I have never read a review and yours makes me want to actually buy the book (I had it on my wish list haha) just saying that your review and impression of the books proves that it is really good! The criticism was evident from the synopsis but your point of view of standing together totally adds value to buying this book.

    Thank you very much for your words and for sharing! I hope you could check my blog too! :3

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