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All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
Review by Hargun
In today’s world, racial profanity and police brutality has been affecting African American millenniums and adolescents for a long time. All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, is a young adult novel that details a specific instance of police brutality from the perspective of two high school classmates. Rashad Butler is the protagonist of the story who is severely beaten by a local policeman, who wrongfully suspected him of shoplifting and assaulting a white woman. Quinn Collins is a witness of the beating that pretends he wasn’t there because he doesn’t know what side to take.
For Rashad and his peers, Friday’s are another way of saying “Party Day”, but this Friday would change everyone’s life forever. Rashad was getting ready, but went to go get chips from the local market before, because he didn’t want to pay for the expensive food at the party. As he selected his bag of chips, he opened his bag to pull out his phone to text his friends, but then a white woman who didn’t see him on the floor, tripped over him. The cashier saw the open bag and the chips next to Rashad, and instantly thought he was stealing. Then the policeman walked in the store, and saw a white woman on the floor next to a black teenager. He dragged Rashad out of the store, pinned him to the ground and started beating him up. Rashad tried to move, and again, the policeman wrongfully suspected him of trying to resist arrest, which caused Rashad to get beaten even more.
Rashad was hospitalized with a broken nose, several broken ribs, and internal bleeding. This made all of Rashad’s family and friends burn inside with rage, because this just added to the list of innocent black people beaten by white policeman. It had to stop somehow, and what other way than a proposal for a protest. Rashad’s father, who was very patriotic and served in the army and police, wholeheartedly disagreed with the idea of a protest. He believed that they, especially Rashad’s brother, should just let this go and move on. Many people all over the community were affected by the beating, from the high school Rashad attended, to strangers around the neighborhood. It started off with graffiti paintings all over the community saying, “Rashad is absent today”. Then, people started taking pictures, and hash tagging “#RashadIsAbsentAgainToday”. In the next days, Rashad has been seeing his video blow up on the Internet and the news with comments saying he is the victim and the policeman should be punished. This showed the amount of people affected by police brutality and Rashad became famous in a way.
Quinn, who has been facing many problems with Paul (the policeman), who was basically his caretaker, finally decided whose side he’s on. He wore a shirt to school, on the front saying, “I’m marching” and on the back saying “Are you?” The whole school had mixed emotions about this, with lots of teachers and students appreciating what he was doing, and others, like his basketball coach, disagreeing with the protest. It was time for the protest, and the next day, everyone from the community marched from the high school to the police station Paul worked at. Later, during the march, Rashad came with his friends and family, and they stood in the front of the line, with all the strength and courage from the people behind them. When they reached the police station, everyone laid on the floor in a process called a “die-in”. This form of protest was used so that the opposing side, or in this case the police, couldn’t push the people or roll them all away. When they were on the floor, Spoony’s girlfriend, “Betty “ who helped with protest, started yelling names in the crowd with “Absent” following each name. This was to signify all the dead African-American people who were innocent and misjudged by a other colored policeman. When it came to the last name, they said, “Rashad Butler, Present”, because he was one of the few that didn’t die from the police brutality.
I wanted to read this book because my brother previously read it and recommended it to me. Given that all libraries are closed, I decided to give this book a try, and didn’t regret reading it at all. I have only heard a few cases about police brutality on the news, but this book really goes in detail of how everything plays out and all the emotions in the mix. After reading this book, I would say the only thing I didn’t like about it was that; there was lots of profanity use throughout the story. I would say it is appropriate for teens that are mature and could understand the story and not only focus on the profanity use in it. I would recommend this book to all my peers because hopefully people can understand that racism is still around today. All in all, I would rate All American Boys 5/5 stars because it really explains both sides of the problem, and gives the reader lots of information to determine if the policeman’s actions were right and just, or wrong and abusive. For my opinion, I am on Rashad’s side, and I think the policeman’s actions were unjustified.