All American Boys by Jason Reynolds: Book Review

I have an affiliate relationship with and Malaprop's Bookstore in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site. Read more on my affiliate page.
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds Book Cover
Title: All American Boys
Content Warning: Police Brutality

My Synopsis:

Teens Rashad and Quinn are both all-American boys. Rashad loves art, joined JROTC to make his father happy, and loves hanging out with his friends and meeting girls on Friday nights. Quinn’s dad was killed in Afghanistan several years ago. He’s adapted, largely because of his best friend’s older brother, Paul, who fills in as a father figure in Quinn’s life. Quinn is focused on making starter on the school’s basketball team.

Rashad walks into the corner convenience store one Friday night for some chips and gum. He reaches into his bag for his phone, and next thing he knows, a cop is throwing him outside, beating him, throwing him to the ground, breaking his nose, and breaking his ribs. Quinn stumbles onto the scene and immediately runs away. Because the White cop who’s beating the Black teen? That’s Paul, his mentor.

My Review:

Holy cow. Can I give this book all the stars? Because five doesn’t seem like enough.

Written by a Black author and a White author, All American Boys covers all the nuances of a scene that’s shamefully familiar to the American public–a policeman beating and/or killing a Black man. Rashad shows signs of PTSD. His older brother is angry and immediately starts organizing a protest and trying to gain control of the news story. His mom is heartbroken but doesn’t want anyone else to get hurt. His dad is deeply conflicted. A former police officer himself, he knows exactly what the job entails. He struggles to reconcile his belief in law and order with the irrefutable evidence of his son’s beating.

Quinn has his own choices to make. Does he stand by the family that has welcomed him as one of their own for so many years and seen him through such a difficult loss? Does he report that he witnessed the beating? Does he just try to keep his head down and stay out of it, as the basketball coach tells his team to do? What would his dad do in his shoes?

What would you do?

Because that’s ultimately the book’s call to action. We can’t silently stand by, thinking that it’s someone else’s problem, or that the victim must have done something to deserve such treatment. We each must take a stand and build the better world that we want to see.

I can’t recommend this highly enough. Books and movies rarely make me cry but the last scene was so powerful, I was about to start sobbing on an airplane. I had to take a break to get myself together. Read this one.

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

Desmond Tutu, quoted in All American Boys

Banned Books Week:

Banned Books Week 2021

All American Boys was the #3 most-challenged book in 2020 because of “profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be ‘too much of a sensitive matter right now.'” There is profanity, drug use, and alcohol in the book, but it felt real to me. Teens are not saints. They don’t all curse and drink, but there are some who do.

I personally felt the authors handled the subject matter beautifully. We’re all seeing this situation entirely too often in the news. We all have knee-jerk reactions to what we see, one way or the other. This novel gives readers a way to interpret and think about what they see. It opens a dialog about race and policing in America. It’s powerful precisely because this is a “sensitive matter right now.” By sharing and addressing two differing points of view, the content can ultimately bring people together in meaningful discussion, rather than dividing them.

Similar Books:

If you liked All American Boys, you might also like my reviews of

Reading Challenge:

2021 Diversity Reading Challenge Button


Buy All American Boys from Malaprop’s Bookstore in beautiful Asheville, NC or

Other Posts You May Enjoy:


  1. I am so glad you loved this book as I did, too. The Ethnic Studies English 9 class in our district reads this for one of it’s books (I think in the unit on power).

  2. Ugh. Banning or challenging a book because “it’s too soon” is ridiculous. I just… ugh. It sounds like this is too important a book, and the people who don’t see anything wrong with the behaviors presented in the book are just afraid of the truth. I hadn’t heard of this book before. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

I love to hear from you! Please contact me (menu bar, above) if you're having trouble commenting.