“All American Boys” Book Review: Grappling with Racism, Loyalty, and Violence

All American Boys, written by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, grapples with racism, and parallels very closely to the George Floyd incident of today.

It is the very epoch of the movement between black lives matter versus blue lives matter. The truth versus the lie. Justice versus loyalty to one’s own blood.

Rashad, a black student, walked into a store expecting to buy a bag of chips. What he got were accusations of shoplifting, fists pounding into his body, and being sent into the hospital with possible internal damage. What he got was his family being divided over whether Rashad was the victim or the perp. What he got was media attention as the entire community around him split into two division: black lives versus blue lives. And what he got was a set of loyal friends and equal strangers who paraded with a variety of skin-colors to support Rashad and black lives.

Quinn, on the other hand, is white, goes to Rashad’s school, and a teenager who has been raised by the cop that beat Rashad into the ground. His family expects him to be loyal to Paul – the offending cop – but what Quinn saw changes everything. He was there that day when Paul beat Rashad to pulp. And his inner self tugs him towards standing up for Rashad, causing a division within the family who wishes him to support Paul, their blood.

Filled with racism, the ideology of family over friends, and the cry for justice, as well as the ensuing chaos between families and the community and the mass protests, this novel deals with the bias against different skin colors in America in a realistic manner. This novel serves to show that not only is the community affected by one person’s action, families and friendships are affected as well, as the ugly underbelly of America – racism – is revealed. A person who one can believe to be morally good and harmless can be racist and defy your expections, as did Paul to Quinn. And a young man’s life can be changed for having just a certain skin color, such as Rashad, and, in real life, George Floyd.

All American Boys sums up the chaos happening across America. The story of Rashad directly parallels what happened to George Floyd. Both George Floyd and Rashad were victim of unnecessary police violence. The difference is that George Floyd died, and Rashad lived.

The community response- around the world for George Floyd, and shown in the hometown of Rashad – is, nevertheless, the same. The outstanding cry for equality is echoed from case to case, novel to life.

That is what makes All American Boys such a wonderful novel. It represents realistic situations, a realistic response, and realistic divisions with communities, families, and friends.

The title of the novel is important as well: All American Boys.

Because no matter what skin color you have in America, everyone is an American citizen.

We are all Americans.

Skin color matters. But what matters more is that we are all citizens of the same country.

All American Boys is a racially-aware, eye-opening novel into the dark underbelly of America. It represents the outcry of the black community and the unity of all communities against injustice. It represents taking the action to become anti-racist and to fight racism.

It represents George Floyd and all the black lives lost because of police violence.

Lots of love, and read All American Boys,

Jess

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