All American Boys is a big-issue book that also makes an excellent character study. Rashad, a sixteen-year-old African-American boy, is the victim of police brutality. Quinn, a sixteen-year-old white boy, is a witness to Rashad's beating. These two guys live in the same city and go to the same school. Quinn plays on the same basketball team as some of Rashad's friends. And yet they barely know each other. The story takes place during the week Rashad recuperates in the hospital. Quinn comes to terms with the fact that he saw the beating that put Rashad there--and that the police officer is his best friend's big brother and a father figure. Some of their classmates plan a protest march. Both Rashad and Quinn take time to figure out if they should be a part of it, being pulled in all sides by both supportive and unsupportive friends, classmates, and family.
Written by two authors--Jason Reynolds wrote the chapters narrated by Rashad and Brendan Kiely wrote the chapters narrated by Quinn--we get to know these two guys--and their friends, classmates, and family. They are portrayed so realistically, it's hard not to feel sorry for everyone involved. But this is not a sad story. It's a story full of hope. And hopefully, a story that will spark dialogue about the issues of racism and police brutality within our culture, bringing people from all sides of the issue together, to sit down and talk, to get to know each other, and to listen to each other with the respect and dignity we all deserve.