Book review: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

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If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.

All American Boys is the story of Rashad, a black teenager who is assaulted by a white police officer. It’s told in dual-POV with Quinn, a white teenager from the same high school, who both witnessed the event and knows the police officer. Throughout the book, the authors examine Rashad’s place at the center of a movement and Quinn’s struggle with his own passive racism and privilege.

If I can be perfectly honest for a second, I truly expected to love this book.  I thought it would be another The Hate U Give and probably went into it with my expectations too high.  The book is good, but, in my opinion, it’s not as jaw-droppingly amazing as THUG.  If anything, it’s an almost lighter version of that story.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book.  (If enjoyed is even the right way to describe how I felt while reading it.)  I think that it raised interesting, important, and timely points, but I felt like it could have been more.  And, again, don’t get me wrong – it’s not like Rashad needed to die or something more dramatic needed to happen for it to be more. But there are loose threads at the end of the book and I could have done with a bit more closure.

Another thing that kept this book from a full five stars was that it felt like it was trying to teach me a lesson. Whereas THUG told a story with police brutality as the backdrop, All American Boys seems to exist solely to preach to teens about current events. And while it’s most certainly important for teens to be able to read a book that forces them to examine their prejudices, I couldn’t help but feel that the characters were a bit one-dimensional and the plot lacked depth.

Still, All American Boys is a wonderful choice for teens (and adults!) who are looking for another perspective into America’s police brutality problem.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

#mm18: diversify your reading
#rtr: indigo

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