All You Have to Do

(Kokila, Penguin Teen)

Being a Black kid in an elite school is not easy, but it’s a privilege. It is a path to “success.” What kind of success, though? And what price do you have to pay for it? You can’t think about that if you want to graduate. And you must graduate. After all, generations of your people fought to get you here.
Just focus on your future. That’s all you have to do. But can you?

All You Have to Do is a page-turning, heartfelt story about two young men attending prestigious schools nearly thirty years apart and the family relationships that strain under the weight of their choices.

In 1968, in the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, Kevin joins his fellow students at Columbia University as they stage a sit-in to protest Columbia’s yearslong expansion into Morningside Heights at the expense of its residents, the majority of whom are African American. And the protestors are up against more than just their school. . . .

In 1995, Gibran’s request to have a group of Black students from his prep school attend the Million Man March is met with criticism, suspicion, and condescension. Gibran writes an open letter about racism at the school, but his protest only leads to more trouble. . . .

As the two students, whose lives overlap in powerful ways, risk losing the opportunities their parents worked hard to provide, they move closer to discovering who they want to be instead of accepting how society and family define them.

Featured in People Magazine as a must-read for fall 2023

An electric debut; a must-read for all.” —Kirkus, starred review

Kirkus Reviews Best Young Adult Books of 2023

“…timely and resonant…” —Publishers Weekly, starred review


All You Have to Do is a tutorial in time. We don’t simply travel through time here; we travel with time through the bending and breaking of power and tradition. Autumn Allen has created a book that counts its readers as its most important characters while examining how we fight for dignity in different, but very similar generations. Incredible art-making!” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir, winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction

“​Autumn Allen has offered a rare and refreshing glimpse into Black boyhood in elite schools on the precipice of two vital moments in American history. All You Have to Do is a profound and empathetic statement on the costs of striving for excellence against all odds. Allen is a writer to watch!” —Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award Finalist

All You Have to Do beautifully immerses the reader in the stories of two young Black student activists and their shared personal struggles that transcend decades. It is a stunning debut novel.” —Ibram X. Kendi, author of Stamped from the Beginning, winner of the National Book Award

“This intense debut novel connects two young Black men struggling for acceptance and equality … Allen expertly integrates historical civil rights figures and events into a character-driven narrative that communicates how it feels to be transformed by a powerful speech, to face violence, and to stand tall every day in the face of injustice and racism. She ends with a moment of triumphant unity in a struggle that continues.” —Booklist, starred review

A compelling portrait of the intersectionality of race, class, and intergenerational change … Readers will be intrigued by a family mystery that Gibran works to unravel and the nuanced relationship between uncle and nephew. … This debut novel is meticulously researched … An important addition to the canon of YA historical fiction and especially recommended for readers who are invested in the history of racism and the struggle for freedom.” —School Library Journal

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