Wednesday, February 28, 2018

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Cover image for All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely is a powerfully and uncomfortably relevant story about race in America.
Rashad is black. Quinn is white. That’s where the comparisons begin and end, at least in the eyes of some. When “all American boy” (Quinn) witnesses the beat down of a classmate (Rashad), he makes a decision to not get involved. However, when he realizes that he knows both the kid taking the beating and the cop, his choice is no longer so clear.
Rashad has been violated in the most violent way. Despite being certain of his own innocence, he finds it more difficult to convince even those who know him best that he followed the unwritten black rule that every parent brandishes into the black son’s heads: don’t resist, don’t talk back, no sudden moves, do as told.
The two boys find themselves at a crossroads. For Rashad, he isn’t certain how to move forward while maintaining his innocence and Quinn just wants the distractions to go away so that he can focus on basketball. Still, as the community has begun to choose sides, Rashad and Quinn struggle with what type of people they want to be when the dust settles.
All American Boys focuses on how a community chooses their loyalties over what’s right; inevitably pinning father against son, teammate against teammate, friend against friend, and black against white. The topic around school spreads into the media where people add speculation and commentary while the truth resides in a grey area of uncertainty, guilt, blame, doubt, and innocence.
The authors address all of the usual arguments associated with race and police brutality in the black community through the stories of two authentic characters. Reynolds and Kiely are unapologetically honest about the emotions and actions that transpire on either side of the argument. While they don’t attempt to offer a one size fits all solution to long standing issue of police brutality, there is a lesson in Quinn’s and Rashad's stories.
Teen readers will gravitate to this book because of its accurate depiction of high school students in America today as varied and diverse as they are. All American Boys peeks into the window of a topic that is reoccurring from city to city, making this tale both tragic and timely. Adult readers should gravitate to this book and other teen fiction novels that deal with issues of the day in order to gain the perspective of the youth. Regardless what side of the argument readers fall on, the authors offer a thought provoking read.

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