Twenty Better Question for All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kelly
1. What character(s) was your favorite? Why?
Rashad was my favorite character. I related to Rashad because he likes to draw, and I also like to draw. I also felt sorry for Rashad that he had to endure what he had to endure during this story. He is just a kid who is trying to stay out of trouble, but is thrown into trouble because of his skin color. I enjoyed Rashad’s voice in All American Boys because it was very easy to read.
2. What character(s) did you dislike? Why?
I disliked Paul and Guzzo. Paul is a lying police officer who just wanted to take his anger out on someone, so he found the first chance to beat up a black kid. He makes Quinn feel like crap for standing up for what is right. He twists his little brother, Guzzo’s, head to make him think that he is the hero while Quinn is a traitor. It is very straightforward that Paul is a racist, bad cop. He was a good guy for Quinn while he was growing up, but he is not a good cop. He put Rashad in the hospital over a bag of chips. My feelings for Guzzo are not as straightforward as my feelings for Paul. Loyalty is an amazing quality to possess, and Guzzo takes loyalty to heart. He wants to stand up for his brother because he wants to be loyal to his brother. He gets mad at Quinn because Quinn is not loyal to his brother. However, I think sometimes you have to remove your feelings from a situation to realize what is right. Guzzo probably saw the video of Paul beating Rashad, so, instead of staying loyal, he should have realized what was right.
3. Does anyone in this work remind you of anyone you know? Explain.
No one in All American Boys really reminded me of someone I know. There were aspects of some of the characters that I could relate to myself or someone I know. I can relate to Rashad’s love of drawing. I can relate Quinn’s obsession with basketball to my boyfriend’s obsession with basketball. I can relate Rashad’s mom’s strictly cussing only when she is very upset to my mother.
4. Are you like any character in this work? Explain.
I like to draw like Rashad likes to draw, though it seems to me that I am probably not as good as him. I can’t draw people very well. I can also relate to Quinn’s realization that he lives in privilege.
5. If you could be any character in this work, who would you be? Explain.
If I had to choose a character in this book to be it would probably be English. First of all, how cool of a name is English?! Also, he is a cool, sleek basketball player who is very popular. I might choose Rashad for his drawing abilities or Spoony for his confidence, but English seems to be the whole package of smooth.
6. What quality(ies) of which character strikes you as a good characteristic to develop within yourself over the years? Why? How does the character demonstrate this quality?
Spoony’s confidence strikes me as a good characteristic to develop within myself over the years. Spoony displays his confidence just by being who he is. Rashad describes it as a respect that everyone just automatically has for Spoony because of the way he carries himself. He is a leader and he does not back down. Spoony is loyal to Rashad, and organizes a protest against police brutality. Spoony tells it like it is because he is not afraid of being wrong. He tells Rashad what the world really is like.
7. Overall, what kind of a feeling did you have after reading a few paragraphs of this work? Midway? After finishing the work?
After reading a few paragraphs of this work I was immediately interested by Rashad’s unique voice telling the story. I became more interested when he said pay attention and then described the details of his arrest and beating. Midway through the work, I was mad that Guzzo and Paul were treating Quinn so poorly and I was mad that Paul hadn’t been punished for what he did to Rashad yet. After finishing All American Boys, I was left with a lot of questions: what was the outcome of the trial? Did Quinn and Rashad ever talk? Did Quinn and Guzzo make up? Will Paul be punished? Did Rashad get with Tiffany? Did Quinn get with Jill? Did anything happen as a result of the protest? What changed Rashad’s father’s mind about going to the protest?
8. Do any incidents, ideas, or actions in this work remind you of your own life or something that happened to you? Explain.
Quinn’s realization that he lives in privilege reminds me of my own life. As I grew up, I realized that my parents were pretty well off, that I was never discriminated against, and that I really got a lot of chances to succeed through-out my life. It was around 15 that I realized I was spoiled compared to a majority of the people on this planet; that I had never really endured a real struggle. I had never really even been discriminated against or treated differently (that I can remember) because I am a girl. It was a stunning realization to realize that not everyone is given every chance of succeeding in life like I was (for this, I am very grateful to my selfless parents) and this realization does make you feel guilty like Quinn felt guilty.
9. Do you like this piece of work? Why or why not?
I really enjoyed this piece of work. It brings up so many issues that our country faces regarding discrimination based on race. It makes you question our own justice system as well as police officers. I enjoyed this book because it shows a side of the world that some people never see.
10. Are there any parts of this work that were confusing to you? Which parts? Why do you think you got confused?
I was confused as to why they ended the book where they did. I had so many questions, and most of all I wanted to know whether Paul was going to get punished at all for what he did to Rashad. I enjoyed the ending because it was beautiful with Quinn and Rashad finally connecting in a small way, but I wanted to know more!
11. Do you feel there is an opinion expressed by the author through this work? What is it? How do you know this? Do you agree? Why or why not?
The opinion expressed through this work is that just because something bad does not directly affect your life, that does not mean that you can just do nothing about it. If you choose to ignore a problem, then you are feeding the problem. If you do not stand up for the oppressed, then you are taking the side of the oppressor. We have to actually talk about these hard issues like police brutality and race in order to address the real problems in our country.
12. Do you think the title of this work is appropriate? Is it significant? Explain. What do you think the title means?
The title of this work, All American Boys, is very appropriate and significant. Both Rashad and Quinn could be seen as all american boys. Rashad has a cop for a father and is in ROTC. Quinn’s father died in the military and he is a basketball star.They are both trying to live up to the all american boy standard set by Quinn’s father giving his life in service and Rashad’s father pressuring him into the military. However, despite Rashad and Quinn both being all american boys, they have very different lives and receive different treatment. In a lot of ways, the two boys are very similar except their skin color, and this makes all the difference in the world.
13. Would you change the ending of this story in any way? Tell your ending. Why would you change it?
I would change the ending to give the reader more of a resolution. I would end it happily, of course. I would have Quinn and Jill get together. I would have Rashad and Tiffany get together. I would have Quinn make starter of the basketball team despite skipping practice to go to the protest. I would have English and Quinn get attention from basketball scouts. I would have Paul get fired and put in jail for assault after a successful trial. I would have Guzzo realize that Paul was guilty and make up with Quinn.
14. What kind of person do you feel the author is? What makes you feel this way?
I feel that the authors, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, are very creative people. I wonder if one wrote the voice of Quinn while the other wrote the voice of Rashad. They organized the book in a way that kept the reader interested. I enjoyed getting two perspectives on the story. They created the characters so that they were very easy to relate to and were very three dimensional. I liked both of their writing styles.
15. How did this work make you feel? Explain.
All American Boys made me ask myself a lot of questions. Had I ever been discriminatory towards someone based on their race without realizing it? How do we stop police brutality and racial discrimination from occurring? Why are these beliefs that black people are less than white people so deeply held? Had I ever been dismissive of an issue within our country because it did not directly affect me?
16. Do you share any of the feelings of the characters in this work? Explain.
I share Quinn’s feeling of guilt when he realized that he can just step away from this issue that Rashad is facing. He does not have to be a part of it because he is white. He does not have to face certain struggles just because he is white. He does not have to fight for his own civil liberties because he is a white male. He feels guilty that he could just turn his back on another person because of a difference of skin color. He realizes that he does not want to step away from the issue anymore and goes to the protest.
17. Sometimes works leave you with the feeling that there is more to tell. Did this work do this? What do you think might happen?
YES! There were so many questions, as I have already stated. There was no retribution for Paul. We never found out about the basketball starters or the relationships that Quinn and Rashad hoped to form. We never know if anything happens because of the protest. We don’t know if Rashad ends up going to court. We don’t know anything!
18. Would you like to read something else by this author? Why or why not?
I would read other pieces of work by these authors because I liked their writing style. I read this book very quickly, and enjoyed reading it. The words were simple. The character’s had different voices.
19. What do you feel is the most important word, phrase, passage, or paragraph in this work? Explain why it is important.
When Quinn is questioning whether to go to the protest because he is scared of the military tanks, Jill gives him a flyer with a quote by Desmond Tutu that says: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” I think this is the most important phrase in the book because it shows the whole moral of the book. Just because injustice or discrimination does not directly affect you, that does not mean you can remain neutral. If you remain neutral, then you are just as bad as the people doing the injustice. We can help fight against discrimination even if it does not involve us, and we should, as decent human beings, stand up for our fellow human-beings. We can fight hate and ignorance with education.
20. If you were an English teacher, would you want to share this work with your students? Why or why not?
I would want to share All American Boys with my students. People may not be aware of the kinds of discrimination people of color face, especially in rural communities like small town Nebraska. This book can be a way to open student’s minds to the struggles that other people face, and may motivate them to stand against injustice even if it does not involve them directly.