Stuff for the Teen Age
All American Boys: The Real Best YA Book of 2015
By now I'm sure you've combed through all the lists put out this year by various sources, trying to get a jump the best Young Adult books of 2015. And I will say, 2015 was a great year! As someone who grew up with Young Adult literature when it was just beginning to blossom as a genre, I have to say that it is refreshing to encounter a broader scope of themes and characters. Plots are becoming more complicated and the depth of the teen psyche is finally being acknowledged, but hey, that's another post for another time.
With all of this exploration in the genre we've seen something of a surge in more controversial or just less talked about subjects, such as depression or gender identity or even coping with school shootings. However, one that definitely stood out for me was All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendon Kiely.
Rashad and Quinn are both your average high school guys just trying to get by. They want to make their parents proud, get into good colleges, score with the ladies, and just do what high school guys do. Rashad's in the ROTC and Quinn's doing his best to get scouted from his basketball team. They aren't friends exactly, but an incident after school shakes them, and their community to the core.
It started out as an ordinary day. Rashad was just fixing his shoes when he's accused of stealing. Quinn witnesses as a cop beats Rashad down without a second thought to what actually happened. Reeling with emotion and confusion, Quinn struggles to justify why his childhood hero would commit such a heinous act of violence. Rashad tries to cope, but his former cop dad thinks he probably had it coming.
This is a story that touches a nerve that too many people are afraid to put a voice to. It illustrates the problem in our society we have with police brutality towards black men. In the recent media, we've seen global sensations such as Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar come forward to bring awareness to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. That's what this book does. It examines our conscience, forces us to take a step back, and demands a conversation that we've been unwilling to address.
As a librarian and bibliophile, I strongly believe that books change us. They come to us exactly when we need them. Do I think that this is the greatest literary classic of our time? Maybe not, but it does get the wheels turning and sometimes that's all a book needs to do. Put your hands up for All American Boys.