With All American Boys, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely have written a moving, timely story about police brutality toward young Black men in America. I listened to this book as an audiobook, and it was outstanding.
This story is really two stories: the interconnected experiences of Rashad Butler, a sixteen-year-old Black boy who is beaten at a convenience store, and Quinn Collins, a white boy who witnesses it. After school one day, Rashad stops to buy some chips at a local store. While reaching for his cell phone, which is in his open bag on the floor, a white woman accidentally backs up into him and trips. As Rashad and the woman apologize to one another, the store manager looks over, sees Rashad’s open bag, and assumes he is trying to shoplift. He alerts a white cop in the store, Paul Galluzzo, who sees the woman on the floor and assumes that Rashad is harassing her. He pulls Rashad out of the shop, throws him onto the ground, and beats him mercilessly.
Rashad spends several days in the hospital with serious injuries. Meanwhile, his school is in an uproar. Students have created a hashtag, #RashadIsAbsentAgainToday. A video of Rashad being beaten is all over the news. His older brother wants to make sure that people know what happened to him.
At first, Quinn feels torn–Paul Galluzzo is like a father to him, someone he loves and looks up to–but Quinn knows that what he saw wasn’t right. Throughout this book, he learns how to be an ally to Rashad, even if it means losing some of his closest friends.
This is an incredible story of two young men and their community struggling to face what has happened to Rashad, struggling to call it what it is—racism—and learning how to fight this injustice.
Quinn and Rashad are believable, well-developed characters. The story manages to come across as genuine, not condescending or didactic, and the ending gave me chills. It’s an honest portrayal of teens learning how to acknowledge and protest police brutality and racism in America, and it’s excellent.