All American Boys

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
All American Boys Book Poster Image
Parents recommend
Haunting tale of two boys' lives changed by police assault.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers get to see the emotions, thoughts, and discussions behind the stories that dominate news cycles today.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about friendship, activism, doing what's right, and being honest help show the positive steps all people, no matter their age, can take in the face of injustice. The positive messages in the novel humanize what's often thought of as a political issue first before being seen as a human issue.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some of the adults make the professionally and personally difficult decisions to join students in speaking out again police brutality. Many of the students and teens take the moral high road and lead the adults, who have more trouble with the issues facing everyone.


A boy is beaten severely by an adult; we see the beating, read about the blood, the pain, the aftermath that includes internal bleeding, a broken nose and ribs, swelling of the face, and the like. There also are discussions of intimidation and deaths at the hands of police, fights between boys, and rough play during basketball games. 


Mild boy-girl crushes and locker room talk, including a reference to someone who almost "got some."


Strong language includes "Jesus," "a--hole," "s--t," and several uses of "f--k," often in high-emotion situations/discussions. There's also some name-calling, including "jerk."


Brands are mentioned for scene setting, including UPS, Call of Duty, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults are described as drunk, drinking, and buying alcohol for underage teens. Teens are seen drinking and discuss doing drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, is an eye-opening view of a brutal assault by a police officer on an innocent 16-year-old boy as seen through the alternating perspectives of the abused and a teen witness to his beating. It was named a 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book. There's racial tension, and violence includes a boy beaten by an adult (with severe injuries described), fights between boys, and threats. There's also positive activism in the face of brutality, which should inspire tweens and teens. Some strong language includes "s--t" and f--k."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byClynnforrester October 24, 2019


Great read , very passionate . Not for readers under 15. Book relates to police brutality and has a small amount sexual content .
R rated in the “ choice” w... Continue reading
Adult Written byBennyDover January 30, 2020

No kids below teen!

Has a lot of violence and many mentions of drinking
Has many examples of resilience so it is a good book to read for teens
Teen, 13 years old Written byBookLover77 August 24, 2017

Thought Provoking Call to Action

This book is an interesting and well-written book about police violence for the modern age. I believe you should let your child read this book because the messa... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byjim.ennaa May 5, 2021

its a really good book

i am 13 years old and i read this book for my english class and i think it was an amazing book. personally i believe that this book is for children 12 and up be... Continue reading

What's the story?

Rashad and Quinn are teens living in the shadows of both of their fathers' reputations and expectations when one night changes them both forever. Each boy must decide what kind of life he will live going forward, as the shock waves of a police beating shake them and everyone around them to the core.

Is it any good?

This breathtakingly honest, artfully written, emotionally smart look at lives rocked by police brutality; it moves beyond headlines, hashtags, and stereotypes. It tells the story of two ALL AMERICAN BOYS whom readers will love and cry for as the teens are forced to grow up fast following the violent incident. 

The authors take readers on a journey with two fun, likable, and acutely emotionally aware teen boys as they navigate their own sense of morality even when the adults around them are often unable to or cannot give clear guidance. The alternating narratives are brilliantly written, allowing readers to deeply feel, see, taste, smell, and experience the world through Rashad and Quinn's eyes during this snapshot in time. It is an intimate, hopeful, frightening, and necessary experience. Readers are going to fall in love with these all-American boys.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way incidents of police brutality are portrayed in the media. The novel shows a clear case of right and wrong; however, some characters still seem unwilling or unable to see past bias. How do you see that same circumstance played out in the media?

  • Families also can talk about the "talks" your parents give you about safety and about how to conduct yourself when you're on your own versus the "talk" Rashad receives from his father. What is different between your family and his? How does that affect the messages you receive about interactions on the street?

  • Finally, families can talk about activism and teens. Often adults tell kids to wait until they're older to get involved in politics, protests, and the like. Give three examples of what kids can do to be active in their communities when they feel passionately about a cause and how adults can help rather than hold back.

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories and diverse characters

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