Parents' Guide to

All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto

By Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Moving, explicit look at growing up Black and queer.

A three-quarters profile of a Black teenager wearing a hat with large, colorful flowers.

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 5 parent reviews

age 18+

Garbage

Absolutely sickening! Do not waste your time and money on anything from this author!
age 14+

engaging memoir that doesn't beat around the bush

Johnson succeeds in using a memoir-manifesto as a tool for education. They make the book accessible by explaining concepts in a way that does not feel patronizing or judgmental — the reader feels more like Johnson’s friend, less like their formal student. All Boys Aren’t Blue is currently the second most banned book in the US, but Johnson’s experience is not unique – there are many Black queer people who grow up and face similar struggles, and for those who hold different identities, this book can serve as a window into the lives of those different from them. ABAB can also help build someone’s empathy as they realize their own intersections of privilege and oppression. While reading the book, you fall in love with Johnson and root for them to reclaim their masculinity, find community, and feel accepted. One of the main themes in ABAB is the important roles that both nuclear and chosen families play in someone’s experience with their identities. Johnson’s vulnerability permeates the book and when they have their first crush, come out to their Nanny (who is hands-down the best “character”), and finally feel that their masculinity is accepted (in a fraternity, of all places!), you are thrilled, and maybe have tears streaming down your cheeks. However, it is important to note that younger readers should be mature, because the book deals with serious material, including violence, sexual assault, and death. Personally, the chapter most difficult for me to read was Chapter 10, which is titled “A Lesson Before Dying.” This chapter was about caring for those who raised you, and the sense that the amount of time we have with someone is finite. It was beautiful and powerful, but for anyone who has experienced loss or has a sick family member, it can be especially difficult to read. I give this example in order to say that Johnson breaks the story into acts and chapters, so if someone wanted to skip a particularly triggering section, it would not be difficult to do so. Johnson even makes it easy for you because the more intense chapters are introduced with some sort of content warning. All that to say – whether you are a teenager or an adult, I would definitely recommend the book! There is so much to get out of it, and Johnson is a superstar.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (5 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

Author George M. Johnson's memoir is brave, honest, moving, and sometimes even funny. All Boys Aren't Blue takes on a lot of tough, scary topics, and Johnson approaches them frankly. His perspective looking back on his life now is always infused with a sense of love, both of family and of the young readers like himself that he hopes to help.

His calls for change, education, and equality are also strong, with historical context and emphasis on the need for marginalized teens to learn from others like themselves, and to see themselves as whole, full members of society. Some of the emphasis comes from being almost too repetitive, but it's a minor flaw that's eventually overcome. Despite the controversy that mostly surrounds the sexual content, reading Johnson's story will help marginalized teens realize they're not alone, and will foster empathy and understanding from readers of any background.

Book Details

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