93 pages 3 hours read

Brendan Kiely, Jason Reynolds

All American Boys

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2015

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Character Analysis

Rashad Butler

African-American high school junior Rashad is introduced as he’s taking off his “stiff-ass” (6) ROTC uniform the second school ends, an action that encapsulates his identity at the beginning of the novel. At school, in uniform, Rashad is the good kid his father, a former U.S. Army member himself, expects him to be. His father would probably send him “right to military school” (17) if he behaved otherwise. Rashad gets decent grades and never steals or gets in trouble, but in his street clothes, with jeans “sagged down just low enough” (15) and a leather jacket, he’s viewed as “a different person” (15). Rashad is an artist, always “busy sketching and doodling” (9) and giving his friend Carlos ideas for graffiti tags. On Friday night, he’s just a typical teenager ready to party—to “let the soul seep back into this soldier” (85)—until a misunderstanding causes him to be violently beaten by a police officer, and he ends up in the hospital.

For much of the novel, Rashad becomes, in one sense, a passive character who has little control over what’s happening to him. Lying in a hospital bed, his broken ribs make it difficult for him to even walk, and his broken nose will “never look the same” (43)—an instant indicator that his identity has changed in ways he never consented to.