All American Boys / by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. 6.21.2016

Atheneum Books for Young Readers ISBN 9781481463331

HS Grades 8-12 Rating: 5

With the recent focus on unrest between police and some community members, authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely have taken a storyline that is familiar and shown in All American Boys that things don’t change until we do. Rashad, a young black man, is in the hospital with severe injuries for no apparent reason. Quinn, a young white man, does not know who Rashad is, but his role model, a cop, is the one who beat Rashad. Quinn doesn’t know whose side to be on and that indecision activates the plot for the entire novel. The parallels between fiction and reality help Reynolds and Kiely capture their audience. The force of this book lies in the simplicity—two boys, two views, one incident–while dealing with complex issues of race, stereotypes, assumptions, and others. The story, told in alternating chapters by Rashad and Quinn, stays true to the teen voice and inner struggle of trying to understand incidents that don’t make sense, wanting to change but not knowing how, and how all of this affects relationships with family and friends.

The interaction between Rashad and Quinn explores community and family interactions. The well-executed story offers a strong plot and is neither sentimental nor preachy. The partnership between Reynolds, a black writer, and Kiely, a white writer, adds authenticity to voice.

Leroy Hommerding, CLJ