All American Boys


Jason Reynolds

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Themes and Colors
Racism, Stereotyping, and Police Brutality Theme Icon
American Culture, Values, and Patriotism Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Maturity, Discipline, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Heroes vs. Villains Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in All American Boys, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Racism, Stereotyping, and Police Brutality

All American Boys is centered around an incident of police brutality: Paul Galluzzo’s violent arrest of Rashad at Jerry’s convenience store. The novel shows how the attack shocks and disturbs the town of Springfield, while also emphasizing that this incident is representative of a broader problem of racist police violence that affects the entire country. Meanwhile, Mrs. Fitzgerald’s stories about the civil rights movement indicate that police racism and brutality are not recent…

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American Culture, Values, and Patriotism

The title All-American Boys indicates from the outset that the novel is concerned with American culture and values. The novel is set in Springfield, a seemingly average town in an unnamed state in the US. Like the rest of the country, Springfield has become increasingly diverse in recent years; at one point, Quinn mentions Paul telling him that the white population of Springfield has fallen from 85% to 37%. In the midst of these demographic…

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Fathers and Sons

Both Quinn and Rashad have significant, but troubled, relationships with their fathers, and both suffer under their fathers’ expectations for them. Quinn’s dad was, by all accounts, an ideal father, dedicated to his family and community. At the same time, he was absent during Quinn’s childhood, at first temporarily while he was serving in the military, and then permanently after he was killed in Afghanistan. This is painful on a personal level for Quinn, and…

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Maturity, Discipline, and Responsibility

In many ways, All-American Boys is a book about the challenges faced by teenagers who are emerging from the innocence of childhood and must learn to face the harsh realities of the adult world with maturity and responsibility. As teenage boys go, both Quinn and Rashad are already fairly responsible, due to the fact that they both face rather significant challenges—Rashad as a young black man, and Quinn as the child of a single parent…

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Heroes vs. Villains

Many people in Springfield have a rather simplistic understanding of what it means to be a hero versus a villain, but the novel challenges this simplistic view, suggesting that such an easy division is not always possible. Several characters are framed as heroes, most notably Quinn’s father (who is nicknamed “Saint Springfield”) and Paul Galluzzo. Rashad’s father David is also something of a hero figure, in that he is presented as a model…

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