All American Boys by Jason Reynolds

all-american-boysBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015
  • Edition: First
  • Description:  316 pages ; 22 cm
  • Interest Level:  YA
  • Summary:  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?

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.  Retrieved from http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/All-American-Boys/Jason-Reynolds/9781481463331

  • ISBN: 978-1-48146-333-1
  • Subjects:
    • Race Relations – Fiction
    • Police / Brutality and Complaints – Fiction
    • High School students – Fiction
    • Political Protest – Fiction

Reader’s Annotation: You need to understand that no matter what I saw, Paul is a good guy!  There had to be a good, reason for his beating the crap out of Rashad; there just has to be!

Book Trailer(s): https://youtu.be/55xCHMudGBU

Plot Summary: The separate decision by two boys to stop at a local convenience store has consequences that neither one could have anticipated and that neither one will ever forget.  Both are going to the same party and stop to pick up snacks to bring with them.  Rashad arrives first and in a colossal misinterpretation of the facts, Rashad finds himself accused of trying to steal from the store, or mug a woman who bumped into him or both, by an over-zealous cashier and a police officer who only saw what he wanted to see.  Both the woman involved and Rashad try to explain but the situation spirals into violence in a matter of seconds.  The police officer begins beating on Rashad and injuries him so severely that he is put in the hospital.  And Quinn, who arrived in time to witness the assault, is horrified.  He has a personal relationship with the officer who has acted as a surrogate father to him in the wake of his own father’s death, but he thinks what happened was a horrific act of violence against a guy he knew to be a good guy.  He finds himself pressured by both sides to take a stand but he knows that to do so will change his life.  Rashad, meanwhile, only wants to forget it ever happened, at least at first, but as more and more people get involved on his behalf he realizes he what happened is bigger than himself and he has no real choice.  Both boys eventually come together, their separate stories combined into one and stand up for what they believe is right.

Critical Evaluation:  Addressing an issue that is front and center in the news is always a tricky proposition for a writer.  Current events change and move from front page to no page in a matter of seconds in many cases and a topic that the public considers important today is forgotten tomorrow.  Writing a book that deals with such topics places an author in a difficult position: seize the moment and risk having a book that is obsolete before it even comes out.  In this case the authors got lucky.  Not only was the topic one that remains important and topical long after they wrote it but they wrote a book that will be worth reading many years from now.  The story may be about the issues surrounding police brutality toward African Americans but the fundamental ideas of the book are eternal.  All societies throughout history have had a group or part of its population that is viewed with distrust and antipathy by the ruling class or police forces, which means that while the story is modern it is also eternal.  The writers, one black and one white, worked to reveal two sides of a situation in which one group or person must decide if they are willing to stand by and allow the injustices done to another group.  By presenting the story in two very real voices and from two very authentic points of view, the book achieves a level of relevance and respectability other attempts might fail to reach.  Combined with good writing and a compelling set of characters this book is a classic in waiting and should be read by anyone seeking to navigate an ever-changing world.

Author’s Brief Bio:

  • Jason Reynolds is crazy. About stories. He is the author of critically acclaimed When I Was the Greatest, for which he was the recipient of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent; the Coretta Scott King Honor books Boy in the Black Suit and All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely, also the winner of the Walter Dean Myers Award); As Brave As You, his stunning middle grade debut; and Ghost, the first book in his middle grade Track series. You can find his ramblings at JasonWritesBooks.com. Retrieved from http://www.simonandschuster.com/authors/Jason-Reynolds/403685768
  • Brendan Kiely received his MFA from the City College of New York. He is the author, with Jason Reynolds, of the Coretta Scott King Author Honor book All American Boys. His debut novel, The Gospel of Winter, has been published in ten languages, was selected as one of the American Library Association’s Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults 2015, and was a Kirkus Reviews selection for the Best of 2014. He is also the author of The Last True Love Story. Originally from the Boston area, he now lives with his wife in Greenwich Village. Find out more at BrendanKiely.com. Retrieved from http://www.simonandschuster.com/authors/Brendan-Kiely/408865698

Genre Designation: Realistic Fiction

Possible Curriculum Links: Political Science and Sociology

Book Talk Ideas:  What does doing the right thing mean to you?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

Reviews:

Why this book was selected.  It was required reading for a course but well worth the effort.

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