All American Boys


Title:    All-American Boys

Author:  Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely

Publisher: New York :Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015

ISBN: 9781481463331

About the authors: from


Jason Reynolds is crazy. About stories. He is the author of critically acclaimed When I Was the Greatest, for which he was the recipient of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent; the Coretta Scott King Honor books Boy in the Black Suit and All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely, also the winner of the Walter Dean Myers Award); As Brave As You, his stunning middle grade debut; and Ghost, the first book in his middle grade Track series. You can find his ramblings at


Brendan Kiely received his MFA from the City College of New York. He is the author, with Jason Reynolds, of the Coretta Scott King Author Honor book All American Boys. His debut novel, The Gospel of Winter, has been published in ten languages, was selected as one of the American Library Association’s Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults 2015, and was a Kirkus Reviews selection for the Best of 2014. He is also the author of The Last True Love Story. Originally from the Boston area, he now lives with his wife in Greenwich Village. Find out more at



Rashad Butler and Quinn Collins are both students at Springfield High School, but don’t know each other.

One day, their outlook changes from a single event. Rashad is the victim of police brutality, accused of something he didn’t do. Quinn is a witness to this event. Officer Paul Galluzzo is the aggressor, someone who has acted as a surrogate father to Quinn since his own father own died in combat in Afghanstan. Quinn is torn, because the Paul he sees beating on the young man isn’t the kind, fatherly Paul that he knows.

As Rashad sits in a hospital bed beaten, battered, and humiliated, he is confused about what has just happened. He didn’t do anything to deserve a beating like this. Why wasn’t he given a chance to answer the cop before he was pummeled? Why did this happen?

Both young men struggle through the novel about what this incident means. It will forever change the way both of them see the world. This novel is timely, considering today’s current events.

Critical Evaluation— 

All American Boys is a candid and engaging novel told in a dual narrative. The storyline focuses on the serious issue of police brutality. Rashad Butler is a young man whose life is turned upside down because of an incident of police brutality. In the aftermath of this event, in order Rashad to heal, he must use his sketchbook to give his sketches a face. Rashad is an authentic, brooding, believable teenager in this story. The book moves through a leisurely pace, since most of the book deals with the aftermath of the incident.

Parts of the novel are gritty, leaving the reader to feel raw and violated as we get to hear Rashad’s thoughts as he is being beaten. As we follow Rashad from the brutality incident to the hospital, we almost feel his physical pain. Hurt, violated, and broken, he feels like there is nothing to do but let the issue go.  Slowly, his feelings of helplessness transform into hope.

The biggest obstacle to Rashad’s healing is within himself. The support of the majority of his family is available to him, he just has to give his pain acknowledgement so that he can progress and be the teen he wants to be. He finds a way to heal through his sketchbook.

His artwork symbolizes the way he see life, the idyllic life that he longs for. He sketches his own version called The Real Family Circus. Rashad’s drawings are symbolic of the way he feels about his family, and his family’s place in society. “Why do you frame them in a circle like this? Why not use the whole page?” Nurse Clarissa asks him. And he responds, “Because…well, the circle changes how you see it. Like what are we looking through?

Rashad seeks comfort through the cartoon The Family Circus.  It is seen through a circle.  As Rashad says of the circle, “A telescope? A peephole? The sight of a gun?” The circle is symbolic of Rashad’s feelings of violation. He feels that he is a target. Rashad’s sketches don’t have a face. This is symbolic of him feeling not important as a human being.

“I got better at drawing, and started making my own family cartoons in the same style. I called them The Real Family Circus, and most of them featured a cartoon version of my father shouting at a cartoon version of my brother.” For Rashad, that was his family circus…he eventually reconciled his own version of The Family Circus with faces.

While recovering in the hospital, Rashad learns through his family and others that he must use his voice in order to heal and move on. For this reason, he gives the characters of The Real Family Circus a face.  “He has a face. He deserves a face.” Rashad gives faces to the characters in The Real Family Circus. For Rashad, that was his family circus…he eventually reconciled his family circus with faces.  He has found his voice.

“Genre:African American fiction; Multiple perspectives; Realistic fiction
Character:Authentic; Culturally diverse
Storyline: Character-driven


Reader’s Annotation: #Rashad is absent again today

Genre: contemporary fiction, realistic fiction

Curriculum Ties:  race relations

Booktalking Ideas: Have a discussion about productive protests/marches like the one in the book. What other ways can we get our voices heard?

Reading Level: 14+

Interest Age: 14+

Challenge Issues— racism, violence, profanity

Challenge Resources 

  • Library Selection Policy
  • Rationale explaining why the item was chosen for the collection
  • Active listening skills
  • Awards
  • Reconsideration form (as a last resort)
  • National Council of Teachers of English “Right to Read”
  • Positive and negative reviews: expert, parent, student
  • ALA Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials
  • ALA Bill of Rights on Intellectual Freedom
  • Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  • Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

Why did you pick this for your collection?  

  • School Library Journal Best Books: 2015
  • Westchester Fiction Award (California)