about the book
All I was wanting was a bag of chips from Jerry’s Corner Mart, a snack after ROTC and some gum to kill the chip breath. It was Friday and I was heading to a party at Jill’s and a little up-close time with Tiffany. It was no big deal. Stopped there all the time.
I was at the back of the store, checking out the different varieties. Thought of calling my pal for a ride and set my duffle bag down to unzip it. My phone was in my uniform pocket. The lady behind me at the cooler stepped back, tripped over me, and landed on the floor. As I helped her up, the clerk yelled something about shop lifting and a cop grabbed me. Before I knew what was happening I was handcuffed, lying on the pavement outside with my face smashed into the concrete. The cop’s knee crushed my back as he slammed his fist into my head again and again. All I wanted was a bag of chips!
This Coretta Scott King Honor winning novel is about two boys, one black and one white, and written by two authors, one black and one white. They grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves friends, school, community, and ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.
Jason Reynolds writes in the voice of Rashad Butler, the sixteen-year-old black boy who nearly dies from the beating he received from Paul Galluzzo, the policeman. This cop interprets Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing as belligerence, his slowness to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, and his flinches at every punch as a refusal to stay still as ordered
Brendan Keily writes in the voice of Quinn Collins, the white kid who observes the whole thing. Paul, a friend and a mentor, has always been there for Quinn, ever since his own father died. Now Quinn is faced with knowledge that goes against everything he has believed.
Two boys. Two stories. One truth?
Jason Reynolds grew up in Washington, D.C., and graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in English. He spent 65% of his time at college writing and reciting poetry all over campus.
Even though he started out as a poet, he feels more like a novelist now. In his novels, he bases his characters off of people in his life, whether they want him to or not.
Jason is a bit of a quirky fellow. He knows how to knit, but is much better at crochet. If Jason had the opportunity to have dinner with five people, living or dead, he would choose to serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He believes you can tell a lot about a person from whether or not they like PB&J, even though you really can’t. He doesn’t think you can trust someone if they don’t like PB&J. So, don’t dis peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in front of him.
Jason currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he can often be found walking the four blocks from the train to his apartment while talking to himself. The “conversations” consist of him repeating character names and plot lines that he thought of on the train. He’s afraid to forget the ideas before he gets home.
Jason didn’t read as a kid. There just weren’t many books written from a young black boy’s point of view. He knows there still are a lot of people (young, old and in-between) who hate reading. He also knows they don’t hate books, they hate boredom. He hates boring books, too! Jason’s master plan is to never write boring books, and he is teaching other writers to write non-boring books, too. He is on the faculty at Lesley University, teaching Writing for Young People MFA Program.
Also by Jason Reynolds:
The Boy in the Black Suit. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2015.
When I Was the Greatest. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2014.
Growing up in Boston, Massachusetts, Brendan Kiely was not into reading—at all! Then the summer before high school, he was given a hefty reading list. Nervous about the changes ahead, he decided he better tackle the work. The first books he picked up were the Lord of the Rings trilogy. “Holy Crap!” He was hooked and hooked hard! The books changed Brendan’s life plans!
Brendan ardently pursued his career, earning an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York. Besides penning new novels, he also teaches high school. Talking and listening to the multi-ethnic teens as they discuss books inspires him to write all the more diligently.
Brendon met Jason Reynolds in 2014 when their publisher sent the two first-time authors on a book tour together. That summer, police brutality dominated the news and the two often debated the issues. As their friendship grew, they both felt the need to respond to what they were witnessing. Keeping what they were doing a secret from their publishers, friends, and family, the two wrote All American Boys from two different viewpoints, one white and one black. When they finished the novel, they presented it to their publisher and it sold in three days! What’s more, the book was fast tracked through the editing, printing, and distribution stages!
Besides the technical research that went into the book, Brendan also wants us to know a lot of emotional research was necessary. He had to be in the mind and heart of his character because, though he did have plot points, it was the character that drove the story. Since young adults are so hungry to use art, entertainment, and books as windows into new ideas, Brendan hopes his writing reflects their personal experiences too.
Brendan currently lives in Greenwich Village with his wife. He keeps a really—no seriously—really messy desk. He thinks it is “cozy.” Often times, he has to resort to using the kitchen table for months at a time. Every once in a while, he’ll get better organized, but it doesn’t last long. And that is a good thing. There are times when he’ll stumble on a scrap of paper with just a phrase or two and he’ll thrill “Oh, my God, this is perfect for the story!”
Also by Brendan Kiely
The Last True Love Story. Margaret K. McELderry Books. September 2016.
The Gospel of Winter. Margaret K. McElderry Books. 2014.
Away Running by David Wright
When Matt, a white boy from Montreal, and Freeman, a black boy from San Antonio, join an American football team in Paris, they become close with their group of diverse teammates. When the brewing racial tension in France turns into explosive riots, several of their Muslim teammates end up in trouble with the police. Will Matt and Free get involved even if it means risking arrest, violence, and jail time?
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
Matt’s mother just died and his father isn’t coping very well, so Matt is basically fending for himself. Still grieving, he gets a job at a funeral home where he comes face to face with other mourners every shift. Then he meets Lovey, a girl who has faced much more hardship than he has but never cries. Can Matt begin to figure out how he feels with the help of Lovey and the mourners he meets at work?
Lie by Caroline Bock
Skylar loves Jimmy. He is her world, her rescuer from the brutal world she found herself in after her mother died. How can the police want her to testify against him, offering evidence that Jimmy assaulted two El Salvadoran immigrants? But she knows that he did it. So does Sean, Jimmy’s accomplice. How could Skylar and Sean have ever followed someone like Jimmy?