All American Boys follows two young men - one African American, one Caucasian - after an incident of racist police brutality. Rashad, who is innocent, is beaten severely enough to be hospitalized by a White police officer who claimed he was stealing a bag of chips from a convenient store. Quinn observes the incident and then struggles with whether to let people know that he was there.
Set in a generic small city or large town named Springfield, the story could be taking place anywhere in today’s America. I’ve been hearing about this book from teacher and librarian bloggers since its release in 2015 and thought it would be a good fit for the optional 4th of July Booklikes-opoly Americana book selection.
Co-authored by African American author Jason Reynolds and Caucasian author Brendan Keily, All American Boys could qualify as an #OwnVoices book. However, I feel like All American Boys was written more as a parable to explain to Caucasian readers why this topic is important than as a book for African American readers to see themselves. While I found the book compelling, at times All American Boy almost crosses the line to polemic and the moralizing is a bit too blatant to these adult eyes.
In the end, All American Boys is a timely memorial to Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Tarika Wilson, Keith Childress and the countless other young African Americans who are disproportionately dying at the hands of police. Despite my quibbles, All American Boys admirably serves as a potential avenue to start the conversation with young adults about this complex topic.