All American Boys is a book that everyone should read, especially during these times of brutality and change in the United States. Through this book, I had the chance to truly reflect on what I have been doing and what I will do in the future to recognize Black voices. I really hope that as many people as possible read this book and take the time to think about the best way to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Before we get into the review, I want to share SparkNotes’s list of books by Black authors, as well as Sofii’s extensive list of 2020 YA book releases by Black authors and resources to help the #BLM movement.
TITLE & AUTHOR: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
GENRE: Contemporary, young adult fiction
PUBLICATION: September 2015 at Simon & Schuster
Rashad: ROTC student who dreams of becoming an artist. Grabbing a bag of chips before the Friday-night party.
Quinn: Varsity basketball player. Trying to get some beer for his friends at the neighborhood convenience store.
Over the span of a few minutes, the lives of two very different boys — one black, on white — collide, and are changed forever. When Quinn sees a family friend beating up Rashad for supposedly trying to shoplift the store, he doesn’t know what to think. But as the entire town starts to take sides, both Quinn and Rashad will need to face unwelcome truths to make decisions that neither of them have considered before.
All American Boys is a must-read for everyone out there, regardless of age or race or whatever else on earth that we have decided should separate one person from the other.
Its inherent message is one that is so relevant to what the United States is going through right now. Delivered through the eyes of two very different teenagers, All American Boys tells the all-too true story of how the actions of everyday Americans encourage the endless cycle of suffering and ignorance brought about by systemic racism and police brutality.
Our two narrators, Rashad and Quinn, are so beautifully developed. Rashad is a preciously soft artist who learns to use his voice and speak out against what he knows is wrong. Quinn was slightly (?) less easier to warm up to, but his realization that his way of thinking and the community he is part of are part of the problem had me cheering him on to do the right thing.
Would I need to witness a violence like they knew again just to remember how I felt this week? Had our hearts really become so numb that we needed dead bodies in order to feel the beat of compassion in our chests? Who am I if I need to be shocked back into my best self?
Reading about the same incident through such different perspectives was enlightening and riveting, especially because of the differences between the two narrators’ voices. The writing, in general, is concise but leaves room for complexity, although the profanity is plentiful. I did have trouble following along with all the basketball lingo, but it wasn’t essential to the story, so I did just fine.
There were particular scenes from both Rashad and Quinn’s perspectives that really stood out to me. Quinn’s epiphany in his English classroom, when he finally starts thinking of Rashad’s beating in the active voice, gave me chills with how necessary his new line of thinking is to Americans today who still refuse to admit there is a problem.
Mistakes were made.
Rashad was beaten.
Paul beat Rashad.
All American Boys is, all in all, a powerful novel that packs tragedy, coming of age, and hope all into just over 300 pages. It deserves each and every single one of those five stars and so much more.
abby the christian bookworm
The Bible says: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28 NIV). God’s salvation is for all, regardless of race, nationality, or gender. Christ died for every single one of us — for God does not show favoritism (Romans 2:11 NIV). It is our job to show His love to the people around us, following His example in loving everyone, no matter how different we may seem.
Dr. Jim Denison’s article goes into much more depth on what the Bible says about slavery, racism, and what we as Christians should do about it.
How about you? Have you read All American Boys? What other books by Black authors are on your TBR? Chat with me in the comments!