All American Boys

by Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely

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Quinn wakes up before his alarm, just as the sun is beginning to rise. He walks outside and looks toward Paul and Guzzo’s house, remembering how Paul promised to be there for him after Quinn’s father died. At that time, Quinn realizes, Paul was only a year or so older than Quinn is now. Imagining himself looking back on this moment in the future, Quinn decides that he does not want to run from what is happening to Rashad and to countless other young Black men his age. After his usual morning workout, he finds a white T-shirt and writes “I’M MARCHING” on the front and “ARE YOU?” on the back.

The shirt is received fairly well at school until Quinn runs into Dwyer, who grabs his arm in the hall and warns him not to ruin things for the team. When Quinn argues that the protest is important, Dwyer glares at him, saying, “You’re wack. . . . What the hell happened to you?” As he watches Dwyer storm off, Quinn realizes that he knows how to answer his question, even if he can’t articulate it in words.

At basketball practice, Guzzo refuses to acknowledge Quinn. They practice a play Coach Carney calls “Fist,” in which English has the ball and the rest of the team defends him as he does a one-on-one dribble to the net with his guard. As they practice guarding him, English consistently sidesteps them and scores, pausing before one layup to say Rashad’s name. When they scrimmage, Quinn tussles with Guzzo, who shoots Quinn a hateful glare. A few minutes later, elbows him in the face. Guzzo claims that it was an accident, but Quinn and his teammates know that it wasn’t. Quinn goes to the locker room to clean up his split lip, and when English enters with the rest of the team, the two of them agree that they should rename their play “Rashad.” As Quinn is leaving, however, Coach Carney stops him and, gesturing at the words on Quinn’s T-shirt, warns him to heed the no-protesting rule and focus on the game, then leaves to call Quinn’s mother.

When Quinn leaves the gym, Guzzo is waiting for him and immediately punches Quinn in the face. As Quinn lies on the ground, Guzzo rains insults on him, accuses Quinn and Jill of becoming “crazy and radical,” and demands that Quinn never speak to him again. When he catches a glimpse of Quinn’s shirt, Guzzo spits on him.

Quinn finally leaves campus and goes to Burger King to staunch the blood from his lip in the bathroom. He begins to think that he may have a connection to Rashad now, since Paul beat Rashad and Guzzo has now beaten Quinn, but reminds himself that there is no comparison between his and Rashad’s injuries or the motivations of their attackers. Realizing the extent of the influence racism has over his and his peers’ lives, Quinn wonders just how much he and Rashad have in common despite their differences.

When he arrives home, Ma is waiting for him after having received the call from Coach Carney. She worries over his bruised face and split lip, and when she confirms that nothing is broken, she forbids Quinn from marching in the protest. When Quinn insists that he is going to march, she tells him that Rashad’s fight is not his and that he is not being fair to the Galuzzos or to her and Willy. Quinn tells her that the fight is everyone’s and that they are already in the middle of it. When Ma asks what Quinn’s father would say, he tells her that his father always stood up for what he believed in, and he and Ma hug.

That evening, Quinn remembers that when Paul first decided to join the force, he told Quinn that he was inspired by Quinn’s father: Paul believed that by becoming a police officer, he would become “a hero . . . somebody who makes a real difference,” as Quinn’s father had. Now, though, Quinn realizes that it isn’t being a soldier or a cop that makes someone a hero, but what kind of person they choose to be. And while Quinn’s father is often praised for his loyalty—the same trait the Galluzzos now expect Quinn to exhibit—it wasn’t loyalty that made Quinn’s father heroic, but his decision to act on his belief in “a better world.”


On Wednesday night, Rashad is exhausted by the time his mother brings an attorney named Maya Whitmeyer to the hospital. Mrs. Whitmeyer believes the case should be “open-and-shut,” but Rashad doesn’t share her confidence. Nevertheless, he tells the lawyer his story and gives her Katie Lansing’s business card, which identifies Ms. Lansing as an archivist at the local public records department.

Rashad is woken up the next morning by Dr. Barnes, who tells him that his injuries have stabilized and he is being released from the hospital. When the doctor leaves, Rashad takes a shower and realizes that the only clothes he has are from a week ago and are covered in blood and dirt. As he’s deciding what to do, Clarissa comes in and asks what Rashad will do when he gets home. Rashad says that he’ll probably try to see his friends, and when Clarissa notices his torn, dirty clothes, Rashad throws them in the trash. Clarissa then asks to see the sketch Rashad was working on the day before. He shows her, explaining that the person in the picture deserved to have a face. When his parents come to pick him up, bringing him a clean sweat suit, he leaves the drawing for Clarissa.

On the way home, Rashad’s parents are quiet, and his father takes a detour to avoid passing Jerry’s. Rashad texts his friends to let them know about his release from the hospital, and they text back that the school is divided, mentioning that Quinn, whom Rashad doesn’t know, had a fight with Guzzo. As soon as they arrive home, he goes to his room and checks the Internet for #RashadIsAbsentAgainToday, which reveals that not only has he been in the local news, but his story has gone national. He sees clips of people defending him and others of people defending Paul, as well as photos of himself in both his uniform and his everyday clothes, with both positive and negative comments. Some commenters have even dug up the incident with Darnell Shackleford, calling Rashad “the son of a bad cop.” When Rashad finds Darnell’s senior picture, in which the young man is in a wheelchair, he decides that the march isn’t just for himself, but also for Darnell.

Carlos, Shannon, and English come over with pizza from Mother’s that night, and they all sit at the dinner table with Rashad’s mother and Spoony. English tells Rashad about Quinn’s fight with Guzzo and their decision to rename the new play “Rashad.” When Spoony asks about the protest, English tells them it will start at 5:30 outside Jerry’s and end at the police station. They all plan to miss basketball practice for the march. Many community members from outside the school will be marching as well, including people Rashad’s mother has asked Pastor Johnson to bring, and Rashad realizes that while his father is avoiding the situation, his mother has decided to support the protest. Spoony then suggests that they hold a die-in, meaning that once they arrive at the station, they will lie on the ground as though dead while Spoony reads names from a list.


Throughout the novel, it is made apparent that Rashad and Quinn, the two narrators, do not know one another. Rashad asks “WHO IS QUINN?” when English mentions Quinn’s fight with Guzzo, and in the very first chapter, Quinn only vaguely recognizes Rashad as a student at his school. In “Thursday,” however, Quinn feels that because Guzzo punched him, he is in some small way connected to Rashad. Similarly, English tells Rashad about how Quinn has transformed: at the beginning of the week, Quinn tried to defend Paul’s actions, but more recently, he wore a shirt in support of the march, fought with Guzzo, and told English they should name the “Fist” play after Rashad. While Rashad does not know Quinn, he is connected to him through his friends on the basketball team and, unbeknownst to him, through Quinn’s having witnessed the beating. While searching #RashadIsAbsentAgainToday, Rashad also sees a photo of Quinn, whom he doesn’t recognize, in the shirt reading “I’M MARCHING; ARE YOU?” In addition, Rashad’s and Quinn’s respective crushes, Tiffany and Jill, have been working together to organize the protest. Even though the two narrators do not know one another, they share similar struggles, and what one does has bearing on the other. In this way, they are connected through the larger community. Readers also learn in this chapter that Rashad has made the national news and that there is substantial community support for him in the upcoming protest. In this way, no one is isolated: the events that affect one person ripple and potentially affect an entire nation.

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