All American Boys Summary
All American Boys is a 2015 young adult novel about two high school students, Quinn Collins and Rashad Butler, who confront racism and police brutality in the town of Springfield.
- On his way to a party, Quinn witnesses his family friend Paul Galluzzo, a police officer, beating his classmate Rashad outside a convenience store.
- As Rashad recovers in the hospital, his classmates plan a protest march. Despite most of his friends siding with the Galluzzos, Quinn decides to participate.
- Rashad leads the protest with his friends and family while Quinn and thousands of other community members march in solidarity.
Last Updated on September 24, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 830
All American Boys takes place in a city called Springfield, somewhere in the United States, over the course of one week. Each chapter describes one day and is broken into two parts, told by two different narrators.
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The story begins with Rashad, a Black high school junior and the first narrator, getting ready to go to a party after school. When he enters a convenience store to buy a bag of chips and a pack of gum, a woman accidentally trips over him while he is looking in his school bag for his phone. Alerted by the commotion, the store’s clerk accuses him of trying to steal the chips, and a policeman takes Rashad outside and beats him unconscious. Meanwhile, Quinn, a white high school senior and the second narrator, is standing outside the convenience store when the policeman beats Rashad. Quinn does not know Rashad, but he recognizes the policeman as Paul, the older brother of one of his best friends. Paul also stepped in as a father figure when Quinn’s father was killed in Afghanistan.
The rest of Rashad’s story takes place primarily in the hospital, where he is suffering from internal bleeding. Rashad initially feels violated, but as a national news story begins to develop around his experience with police brutality, Rashad must determine how he wants to deal with the situation. He vacillates between wanting to ignore what happened and go back to his normal life and realizing that he has the power to make a political statement. In the hospital, he is subject to a number of opinions; his father, a former police officer, initially seeks to blame Rashad for what happened and cannot come to terms with the idea that a police officer would have beaten Rashad without just cause. Rashad’s brother, Spoony, is a political activist who attempts to help Rashad by contacting the press and organizing a protest march. While Rashad feels victimized, he is not sure that he wants to become a political icon representing the injustices of police brutality.
To pass the time during his recovery, Rashad draws—a hobby he had before his experience with police violence—and bases his style on that of Aaron Douglas, a painter from the Harlem Renaissance. Over time, Rashad’s sketches become more detailed and more political. He is still unsure if he wants to lead a protest march with his brother and friends when he is visited by Mrs. Fitzgerald, who runs the hospital gift shop. She tells Rashad that she regrets never having become involved in the civil rights movement when she was younger and encourages him to take a stand. Rashad’s father later visits him again as well, telling Rashad that he quit the police force when Rashad was young because he had wrongfully shot and paralyzed a young Black man whom he had thought was a criminal. In the final chapter, Rashad is nervous, but he musters up the courage to march from the convenience store to the police station along with thousands of members of the Springfield community. At the end of his story, Rashad lies on the ground, representing a dead body, while his brother yells the names of other victims of police violence through a megaphone.
Meanwhile, Quinn must come to terms with the unjust police brutality that he witnessed and determine where his convictions lie: should he be faithful to his friends and family, or should he make a statement to the police, damning Paul, who was once his role model and father figure? Throughout the first few chapters, Quinn tries to stay neutral in the debate on whether Paul was wrong to beat Rashad. Neutrality is also the stance that his basketball coach has encouraged his team to take, as students from Quinn’s high school are being scouted, and the coach wants each team member to play at their best. After attending a barbecue with Paul, however, Quinn realizes that he is now uncomfortable around Paul and cannot see him as anything but a bully.
Quinn begins speaking to his crush, Jill, about his feelings, and she urges him to be honest with himself and take a stand against police violence, as she is doing by helping to organize a protest march. The school also becomes divided on the issue of Paul and Rashad. Was Paul just doing his job, or did he make a racist assumption that fueled an unjust beating? Although Quinn initially refuses to choose sides, he eventually realizes that this alienates him, and he is criticized as he tries to remain neutral. Eventually, he estranges himself from his best friend and Paul, choosing to march in the protest. His story ends as he realizes that neutrality is the same as allowing oppression, and he lies on the ground during the protest in solidarity with the other protesters. By standing up for freedom and justice, Quinn believes he is following in his father’s footsteps.