On My Bookshelf: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

September 24, 2018

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely tells the story of the racial tensions that divide a town after the black teen is severely beaten by a white cop who mistakes him for a shoplifter. Narration alternates between Rashad, the black teen, and Quinn, one of his white classmates, who witnesses part of the incident and is a family friend of the police officer. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: In an unforgettable new novel from award-winning authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

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?

But 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.

Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken from the headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely tells the story of the racial tensions that divide a town after the black teen is severely beaten by a white cop who mistakes him for a shoplifter. Narration alternates between Rashad, the black teen, and Quinn, one of his white classmates, who witnesses part of the incident and is a family friend of the police officer. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
Why I liked it: I've been binging on Jason Reynolds's books recently: Ghost, Patina, As Brave As You, and now All American Boys. While all of his books are realistic fiction, this one tackles a serious issue: police brutality. The novel tells the story of the racial tensions that divide a town after the black teen is severely beaten by a white cop who mistakes him for a shoplifter. Narration alternates between Rashad, the black teen, and Quinn, one of his white classmates, who witnesses part of the incident and is a family friend of the police officer. These alternating perspectives are what made this book such a gem for me. The complications of race relations and white privileges are explored by both teens, who after careful deliberation, each find their own way to take action against injustice. I also liked that the two boys did not directly know one another, but their lives intersected in a variety of ways.

Classroom application: An obvious pairing with the novel would be The Hate U Give, which focuses on the shooting of an unarmed young black man and the events that follow. Another lesser known option would be After by Marita Golden, which also focuses on the shooting of an unarmed young black man, but is told from the perspective of the black police officer responsible for the shooting. The 2004 film Crash could also be used as a pairing.

This summer, the novel, along with The Hate U Give, made the headlines when South Carolina police protested their inclusion on a school's summer reading list. After reading the novel and the article, students could write an argument piece on whether or not the book creates anti-police sentiments. This could also lead to a discussion of whether the book should and will be banned from schools and lead in to a project on banned books.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of All American Boys for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely tells the story of the racial tensions that divide a town after the black teen is severely beaten by a white cop who mistakes him for a shoplifter. Narration alternates between Rashad, the black teen, and Quinn, one of his white classmates, who witnesses part of the incident and is a family friend of the police officer. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

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