93 pages 3 hours read

Brendan Kiely, Jason Reynolds

All American Boys

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2015

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Symbols & Motifs


Many characters in All American Boys play basketball, and basketball games and practices become a way for characters to work through the conflicts that have been simmering off the court. For Quinn, basketball is not only a passion, but a means for him to get to college and live up to his father’s legacy. Through basketball, Quinn is also able to see Paul as a role model and father figure. After Quinn witnesses Paul beating Rashad, Paul and Quinn engage in a tense basketball game that ends with Quinn walking away, symbolizing the fact that he’s rejecting the support Paul once offered him.

As the novel continues, basketball team practices become the place where Caucasian characters like Quinn and Guzzo interact with African-American characters like English and Shannon. Despite their coach’s admonition to stay focused on that game, the boys find that they can’t leave issues of racism off the court—it affects everything. During practice, English forces Quinn to confront his white privilege, saying, “White boy like you can just walk away…” (176), and Quinn regains English’s respect by wearing an “I’M MARCHING” shirt to practice. Quinn and Guzzo also exchange tense moments while playing basketball, culminating in a fight just after practice that ends their friendship.