Sunday, January 17, 2016

Book Review: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

The authors of this book were at Book Riot Live last year participating in a panel about writing with a co-author, or something like that. Jason Reynolds was already one of my Secret Author Boyfriends ever since he was at the Rochester Teen Book Festival last year, but shhhh, as the name suggests, it's a secret.

If you get the chance to see either of these men on tour, do it. If they are together, it's worth camping out to get in. Top quotes from this Book Riot Live panel:

"We want this book to create a safe space to not call people out but to call people in."

"You can't deny the injustices that are happening if you humanize everyone."

"Making someone a hashtag dehumanizes them, even if it's with good intention."
The summary of the book tells you what the book is about. The experience of reading the book is more about joining with the emotional roller-coaster of the characters than it is about figuring out the "truth," which we hear from Rashad's POV right up front. [click for the Goodreads Summary]

This is the story of two people who experience police brutality. The book is told from the perspective of two young men, same grade, same school, one Black, one White. Mr. Reynolds gives us the voice of Rashad, a young Black man with popular friends, mad art skills, and who is on the uncertain track towards law enforcement. His father was a cop. Mr. Kiely gives us Quinn, Rashad's White classmate who's excited about the college basketball scouts who will be seeing his team play in the upcoming championship. And then, Rashad is beaten by a police officer. And Quinn sees.

In light of the social media activism around police brutality that has rocked out Twitter faces, this book brings a human perspective to a movement in which it's easy to forget about humanity.

You might expect that Rashad's struggle will be the most important, the most poignant in this book. And it is important and gut wrenching. He will never be the same. But Quinn, too, struggles with understanding his own place in a system that he could choose to leave as it is. Both boys are pressured from multiple sides about how to move themselves, and their systems, forward.

In the end, this book reminds us that Our County has a long way to go and racism isn't a problem that is mine or yours. Police brutality isn't black or white. And making the choice to fight for what's right is rarely easy.

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