We started off the new semester being introduced to novels by African American authors. With all honesty, I can recall maybe two books I’ve read with African American authors. Of all the hundreds, if not thousands of books I’ve read in my academic career, only two. I was definitely up for the challenge; I was ready to move outside of the zone of “dead old white guys” as my teacher put it. We circled around and examined the tell-tale dust jackets of a wide variety of novels selected as examples, and I chose to reserve and read All American Boys, a newly published book coauthored by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.
All American Boys is a novel following the perspectives of two teenage boys in regards to a case of a police brutality and race. Rashad, a young black boy, involved in ROTC and the son of an army veteran/ retired police officer, was hospitalized after an unfortunate turn of events resulted in a white police officer to falsely believe that he was stealing, and using excessive force to arrest him. Quinn, a white classmate of Rashad's, the son of a soldier killed in action, happens to be a witness to Rashad's arrest, thus pulling him into the center of an event that would turn their community upside down. To complicate things further, the officer who arrests and beats up Rashad is none other than the older brother of Quinn's best friend.
I chose to read All American Boys because I felt that it was very relevant to the issues with police brutality and race relations that have been very prevalent in America in the last few years. I wanted to see another perspective to these issues, one other than the view offered to me by the news and social media. All American Boys definitely fulfilled this desire. I was left with a haunting reality of how there is such a huge racial disparity still existing in this country, and that the issues that have been so loudly broadcasted are not just isolated incidents. Something really interesting about this story is that it's told by perspectives of both black and white characters. As a white reader, it was really interesting for me to get to see the reality of race issues from a character directly affected by them, as well as following the white characters struggle as to how to react to a sanitized reality and how to come to terms with an issue that you had grown up being told was from the past. Having two characters of different races tell this important tale really helped me as a reader relate to them and their experiences, and allowed a controversial issue be told in a way that was relatable and easier to connect to.
Overall, I’m really glad that I read this book. It opened my mind up to the reality of racial discrimination in this country, and that it's something that we need to actively fight against. It left me feeling more informed and in touch with these issues, and with a better understanding of them. I would absolutely recommend All American Boys to anyone who’s interested in reading a book about modern social issues as it beautifully portrays them in a reliable way to young adults.
Cameron Bennett is a junior at Novi High School. She enjoys reading, kayaking, spinning on the color guard, and traveling. She plans on pursing a degree in microbiology or biochemistry.