All American Boys

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


All American Boys
Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds, 2015

Premise: Rashad and Quinn live in the same town and go to the same school, but they don't know each other. Then one is beaten by a police officer and the other sees it happen.

The moral of this book is on the nose, and it wears that fact openly. It's intended for a YA audience and comfortable with that. Happily, the style was strong enough to carry me through the first half, and the ending works very well.

It's presented in alternating chapters between the two boys' perspectives. Both boys felt concrete and realistic to me in their various obsessions, casual macho posturing, impatience with parents, etc.

Rashad is a good student who had never been in trouble, so it's easy for the reader to see that he's the victim of profiling. Quinn's place in the story is the white kid who learns racism is not only real, it's affecting his community. However, although some of the authors' early choices felt easy or predictable to me, by the end both characters gain a decent amount of nuance.

I probably would have found it extremely affecting as a tween/teen, although I would not have been a person who needed much convincing. I especially think the portrayal of the internal struggle of someone coming to terms with racism in their community and in their friends was well done.

The ending was, as I said, extremely effective. It was poignant and visceral, and I got a little emotional just reading it. I might not have found it to be brilliant prose throughout, but it's an important little book with a lot to say.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

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