All-American Boys

Finished All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In an unforgettable new novel from award-winning authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galuzzi, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

But there were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken from the headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.”

I’m a huge fan of Jason Reynolds and now I want to read Brendan Kiely’s first book, too.  This book is incredibly timely and hard to read.

The story is told in alternating chapters by Rashad (victim of police brutality) and Quinn (who saw the incident—which, if we’re being honest, should really be called assault—but who is incredibly close to the officer who assault Rashad and who is conflicted about what to think and whom to believe, even though he actually DID see pretty much everything).

It’s not surprising exactly but everything here is so complicated.  It’s obvious that Paul is carrying around a lot of anger, but does that really discount all the good he does?*  There are no easy answers**, and everyone takes sides.

This book is really great and if you want to see a case like this from both sides, this is for you.

Highly recommended.

* = I would actually argue yes, that putting someone in the hospital with internal bleeding and broken ribs and a broken nose DOES discount all the good he does.

**= Well, okay, not true.  Easy answer: Paul is wrong.  Easy AND true.

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