Mini-Review: All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Written by: Jason Reynolds, Brendon Kiely
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Pages: 316, hardcover
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BookIn 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 Galuzzi, 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.

Mini

I actually don’t have a whole lot to say about this book. It pretty much speaks for itself. But I think this book is amazing and important and I want to make as many people as possible aware of its existence, hence this mini-review!

Basically, this book has two points of view: Rashad, a black boy who is assaulted by a police officer, and Quinn, a white boy who witnesses the assault and know the officer who did it. We follow both boys as they deal with the consequences with the event and are forced to confront important questions about racism and violence, questions we all need to be asking ourselves given how many black people are killed by the police every year. (During one of the strongest scenes in the book, the names of some of these black people are called out at a rally, a reminder that even this book is fictional, the events it forces us to confront are all too real.)

The book is sharp and honest and unflinching, and by the end I felt for both of the boys and appreciated their journeys.  And of course, the book’s messages are so, so relevant–the most salient one being that racism is still real, and ignoring it or staying neutral doesn’t make it go away. As Quinn realizes, “If I wanted the violence to stop, I would have to do a hell of a lot more than say the right things and not say the wrong things.”

Polina 

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