He is stuck in a hospital bed, recovering and trying to understand how an innocent accident ended this way. Kiely shows Quinn trying to reconcile what he has witnessed and his loyalty to Paul. The reader watches how each boy tries to figure out what happened and what to do about it. Quinn has an easier time, but he must come to terms with having white privilege and becoming a witness to what he saw.
At the end of the novel, when he becomes part of a protest march to support Rashad, Quinn listens as the names are read of unarmed black men and women who had been killed in the last year by police. Who am I if I need to be shocked back into my best self? This novel will help readers grapple with the issues it so powerfully describes. My hope is that it will be read and discussed in high school classrooms. It would be an excellent idea to also have teens read The Hate U Give. Giving teens the opportunity to read and discuss such powerful novels will be a valuable part of their learning experiences.
The authors of these books give educators a powerful opportunity to guide their students. Holly and Jean, how do you see these books being read and discussed in the classroom? They could easily be read as a pair. I found the relationship to Wolf Hollow a bit more interesting, because they do not seem as similar. But, when you look at how pain becomes meanness that then becomes violence, you can see how Wolf Hollow and All American Boys connect.
There is also the damage of war—the ultimate violence inflicted upon individuals, families, and societies. Paul takes his anger out on Rashad. The way that white society has historically treated African Americans allows Paul to take his anger out on a young African American male. In Wolf Hollow , Betty takes her pain out on Annabelle and all others. She targets the kind, which she may perceive as weak. I think about restraint because everyone feels pain, anger and perhaps rage that is born out of grief or other emotions. I think that we have not taught our young people how to effectively find ways of working through grief and anger without hurting others—and we have not learned to deal with these powerful emotions as adults.
Another topic for discussion, I think, could be how we balance restraint and release in ways that do not hurt others. Jean: One of the things that strikes me about this book is how deeply rooted our own beliefs are and how much we struggle when something disrupts them. To make him happy. Springfield Central High School bathrooms were never empty. There was always somebody in there at the mirror studying whatever facial hair was finally coming in, or sitting on a sink checking their cell phone, skipping class.
The bathroom was pretty much like an extension of the locker room, where even the students like me, the ones with no athletic skill whatsoever, could come and talk about the same thing athletes talked about, without all the ass slapping—which, to me, made it an even better place to be. Model face to the left. Model face to the right. Brush hairline with hand, then come down the face and trace the space where hopefully, one day, a mustache and beard will be. Mirror-Looking , and English was a master at it.
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English was pretty much a master at everything. He was the stereotypical green-eyed pretty boy with parents who spoiled him, so he had fly clothes and tattoos. Plus his name—his real name—was English, so he pretty much had his pick when it came to the girls. It was like he was born to be the man. Like his parents planned it that way. The captain. The best player. English and I have been close since we were kids, even though he was a year older than me. We were two pieces of a three-piece meal. Shannon Pushcart was the third wing, and the fries—the extra-salty add-on—was Carlos Greene.
Carlos and Shannon were also in the bathroom, both leaning into the urinals but looking back at me, which, by the way, is a weird thing to do. What about you? Or you got basketball practice? A urinal flushed and I knew it was him who flushed it, because Shannon was the only person who ever flushed the urinals. I unbuttoned my jacket—a polyester Christmas tree covered in ornaments—and threw it over the stall door. Shannon spit-laughed. By this point I was doubled over in the stall, laughing. A snuff shot, straight to the gut.
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At all times. If I picked up on it, I knew Carlos did too. It had been at least three minutes since I made that joke, and he was still holding on to it. So petty. Everybody in here know I got more game than you. I kicked my foot up onto the toilet to untie my patent leather shoes.
Just so you know, patent leather shoes should only be for men who are getting married. For those guys, especially English, basketball was life. English knocked on my stall twice.
Carlos grew up right down the street from me, and, like English, was a senior and therefore could drive, and therefore again was always my ride to the party. But if you asked him, he was the nicest dude to ever touch a ball. What he actually was good at, though, was art, which is also why he and I got along.
He was into graffiti. Whenever we were heading to a party, for him it was just another opportunity to speed around the city in his clunker, the backseat covered in paint markers and spray cans, while he pointed out some of his masterpieces. Really they were more like our masterpieces, because I was the one who gave him some of the concepts for where and how to write his tag.
For instance, on the side of the neighborhood bank, I told him he should bomb it in money-green block letters. And on the door of the homeless shelter I suggested gold regal letters.
And on the backboard of a basketball hoop at the West Side court, I suggested he write it in gang script. I never had the heart to do any actual tagging. I mentioned how my father was, right? Plus Carlos was a pro at it. He knew how to control the nozzle and minimize the drip to get clean tags. Like, perfect. All of them. When I walked out of that stall a few minutes later, I was a different person.
But not me. No cape and for the record, no tight-ass red underwear. I stepped out as regular Rashad Butler: T-shirt, sneakers that I had to perform a quick spit-clean on, and jeans that I pulled up, then sagged down just low enough to complete the look. My brother had given me this sweet leather jacket that he had outgrown, so I threw that on, and bam!
I was ready for whatever Friday had in store for me. Hopefully, a little rub-a-dub on Tiffany Watts, the baddest girl in the eleventh grade. At least to me. Carlos always said she looked like a cartoon character. Like he could ever get her. A cartoon character? A cartoon character from my dreams.
It was still early, and I had a couple bucks, so I could get me some chips and a pack of gum to kill the chip-breath. So I caught a bus over to the West Side to first pick up my snacks, then meet Spoony at UPS, just a few blocks from home, so he could spot me a twenty. The bus took forever, like it always did on Fridays. They sold it all. Incense, bomber jackets, beanies, snacks, beer, umbrellas, and whatever else you needed. It was named after some dude named Jerry, even though nobody named Jerry ever worked there.
Lotto-ticket money. Cheap-forty-ounce money. Bootleg-DVD money. My money. It chimed like it always did, and the guy behind the counter looked up like he always did, then stepped out from behind the counter, like he always did. He nodded suspiciously. Like he always did. There were only two other people in the store. A policeman and one other customer, back by the beer fridge. The kind my dad tried to get my brother to apply for because they pay decent money. This cop was a cop. A real cop.
You walk in, grab what you want, and walk out. No money spent. But I never stole nothing from anywhere. Again, too scared of what my pops would do to me. I guess, though, after a string of hits, Jerry whoever he is finally decided to keep a cop on deck. I bopped down the magazine aisle toward the back of the store, where the chips were.
Right by the drinks. Grab your chips, then turn around and hit the fridge for a soda or a beer.
I looked at the chip selection. All the stank-breath flavors. Barbecue, sour cream and onion, salt and vinegar, cheddar ranch, flaming hot, and I tried to figure out which would be the one that could be most easily beaten by a stick of gum.
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Seriously, who eats plain chips? At least it seemed that way to me. I figured she was just somebody who probably had a long week at work, and wanted to crack a cold brew to get her weekend started. My mother did that sometimes. This lady looked like the type who would do something like that. Pay attention.
I finally picked out my bag of chips—barbecue, tasty, and easily beatable by mint. That settled, I reached in my back pocket for my cell phone to let Spoony know I was on my way. Left it in my ROTC uniform. So I set my duffel bag on the floor, squatted down to unzip it, the bag of chips tucked under my arm. At the moment the duffel was open, the lady with the beer stepped backward, accidentally bumping me, knocking me off balance.
She tripped over me. I thrust one hand down on the floor to save myself from a nasty face-plant, sending the bag of chips up the aisle, while she toppled over, slowly, trying to catch her balance, but failing and falling half on me and half on the floor. The bottle she was holding shattered, sudsy beer splattering everywhere. At first, I thought he was yelling at the lady on some you-broke-it-you-bought-it mess, and I was about to tell him to chill out, but then I realized that he was looking at my open duffel and the bag of chips lying in the aisle.
The cop perked up, slipping between me and the clerk to get a better look. Not at first. He was looking at the lady, who was now on one knee dusting off her hands. I zipped my duffel bag halfway because I knew that I would have to leave the store very soon. What was going on? I knew this asshole was talking to. It felt like some kind of bad prank. My hands were already up, a reflex from seeing a cop coming toward me. I glanced over at the lady, who was now slowly moving away, toward the cookies and snack cake aisle. You deaf or something? For what? For who? But before I could even get my fingers on the money, the cop had me knotted up in a submission hold, my arms twisted behind me, pain searing up to my shoulders.
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He shoved me through the door and slammed me to the ground. Hurt so bad the pain was a color—white, a crunching sound in my ear as bones in my nose cracked. After he slapped the cuffs on me, the metal cutting into my wrists, he yanked at my shirt and pants, searching me. I let out a wail, a sound that came from somewhere deep inside. One I had never made before, coming from a feeling I had never felt before. My initial reaction to the terrible pain was to move. Not to try to escape, or resist, but just. The first thing you do is throw yourself on the bed or jump around.
It was that same reflex. I just needed to move to hopefully calm the pain. A fist in the kidney. A knee in the back. A forearm to the back of the neck. You wanna resist? He asked as if he expected me to answer. Plus, I was already in cuffs. I was already.
All American Boys
I just wanted him to stop beating me. I just wanted to live. Each blow earthquaked my insides, crushing parts of me I had never seen, parts of me I never knew were there. Need to learn how to respect authority. There was blood pooling in my mouth—tasted like metal. There were tears pooling in my eyes. I could see someone looking at me, quickly fading into a watery blur. Everything was sideways. My ears were clogged, plugged by the pressure. A Reading Group Guide to All American Boys By Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely About the Book In an unforgettable novel from award-winning authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country, bitterly divided by racial tension.
Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that Paul could potentially be guilty. Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken from the headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.
Discussion Questions The following questions may be utilized throughout the study of All American Boys as targeted questions for discussion and reflection, or alternatively, they can be used as reflective writing prompts. What can be inferred about Rashad from this knowledge? Have you ever been in a similar situation where you remained committed to something to please the people you love?
If so, share your experience. Consider the cover of All American Boys. In what ways is the image symbolic for the events that transpire throughout the course of the book? Describe Rashad and Quinn.