All American Boys

All American Boys Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Jason Reynolds's All American Boys. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Jason Reynolds

Brendan Kiely grew up in an Irish-American family in Boston, Massachusetts, and received a B.Phil from Miami University and an MFA in creative writing from the City College of New York. Alongside writing novels, he teaches at a private high school. He lives in Greenwich Village in New York City. Jason Reynolds, who is African-American, grew up in Oxon Hill, Maryland. As a teenager, he wrote poetry, and while attending the University of Maryland he worked at Karibu Books, a bookstore specializing in black American literature. After graduating from college, he moved to New York City, where he began publishing poetry and young adult fiction. He lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, for 13 years before moving back to DC in 2016. Both writers have won multiple prizes for their work, and All-American Boys was named a 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book and received the 2016 Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature in the Young Adult Category. 
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Historical Context of All American Boys

Kiely and Reynolds met on a book tour organized by the publisher Simon & Schuster in 2013. During the tour, George Zimmerman was found not guilty of the murder of Trayvon Martin, a black teenage boy he shot and killed in Florida in 2012. Martin’s death—along with the police killing of another teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014—were two incidents that sparked the contemporary movement against anti-black racism and police brutality usually termed the Black Lives Matter movement. After Brown’s death, Kiely felt the need to “do something” and suggested that he and Reynolds write the book together. Since 2014, police racism and brutality continues to be a major issue in the United States, and activism combatting these problems continues to grow. Social media has been a particularly important tool within the Black Lives Matter movement, which is likely what inspired Kiely and Reynolds to include the detail of the hashtag #RashadIsAbsentAgainToday within the novel.

Other Books Related to All American Boys

Several contemporary young adult novels also address issues of racism and police violence. Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give explores the murder of a black teenager at the hands of the police alongside more mundane examples of racism in the context of a suburban, majority-white high school. Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down also centers around the shooting of a black teenager by a white person; both novels explore the difficulty of knowing exactly what happened in these tragic incidents, while highlighting the way in which different people’s opinions is influenced by their own racial bias. Wes Moore’s The Other Wes Moore uses a similar dual narrative to All-American Boys in order to explore the different opportunities and challenges faced by boys raised in different socioeconomic backgrounds, and the books explore similar themes of stereotyping, respectability, and the pressures faced by teenagers to lay the groundwork for a successful future. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez utilizes alternating perspectives in order to illuminate themes of racial difference, prejudice, and oppression, in this case in Texas in 1937. The story collection One Death, Nine Stories features nine perspectives on the same event, which—like All-American Boys—are written by different authors. 
Key Facts about All American Boys
  • Full Title: All-American Boys
  • When Written: 2014-2015
  • Where Written: New York City
  • When Published: 2015
  • Literary Period: 21st Century American Young Adult Fiction
  • Genre: Young Adult Realism
  • Setting: Springfield, a city in an unnamed state
  • Climax: The march protesting Rashad’s arrest and police brutality
  • Antagonist: Paul Galluzzo
  • Point of View: Alternates between Quinn and Rashad

Extra Credit for All American Boys

Late bloomer. Despite always having an interest in poetry, Jason Reynolds was 17 when he first read a novel cover to cover: the book was Black Boy by Richard Wright.

Difficult issues. Tough themes occur in all of Kiely’s books. His other novels have tackled sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, sexual harassment, and Alzheimer’s.