What does it mean to be an “All- American” boy?
Reynolds and Kiely delve into police brutality from the perspective of two boys – one black, one white, both American. This is their story – one that happens all too often here in the United States.
Rashad is brutally beaten by a police officer who wrongly accuses him of stealing chips and hurting a woman in Jerry’s Corner Store. As he recovers in the hospital over the course of the next seven days, an uproar entails. Videos of the beating emerge all over social media and racial tensions explode. Rashad maintains his innocence even when faced with doubts by his own father.
Quinn is about to enter Jerry’s Corner Store when he sees a police officer drag a black teenager outside and beat him mercilessly. As he watched he realized that cop is his best friend’s brother, Paul – the man who became Quinn’s father figure when his own dad died in Afganistan. Initially, Quinn denies that Paul did anything wrong, but as the days go on he continues to think about what his mother asks of him when she catches him in a lie:
It’s about how the world looks at you and when they do, who do you want them to see? What kind of a person do you want to be? Who do you think you are?
Quinn is afraid – afraid to stand up for what he believes in because it means that Paul was wrong. He could continue to live in a world where his life didn’t have to change. He could keep his head down and move forward. Why? He is white. An “All-American” boy.
Life for Rashad and his friends is much different. They couldn’t walk away. They couldn’t ignore what happened to him yet they were afraid as well. They want to do something, but are afraid to break the rules. What should they do? How should they handle what happened? Fight back?
All American Boys is one of those books that I will hold close to my heart for a long time. For those who think that racism and discrimination no longer exists, they are in complete denial. As I was reading this book, a Chicago police officer was charged with first degree murder for shooting a 17 year old boy 16 times in less than 15 seconds last year. And who can forget what happened to Michael Brown and Eric Garner?
All American Boys needs to be on every classroom library shelf. It needs to be talked about and it needs to be shared. If there is one book you pick up this year, I highly recommend this one.
For more information on how the authors came together to write this powerful novel, read this on NPR.